Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Stepping on Tender Buttons: “A Chair.” Part 3 of 6


THE BOOK ..........................-           TENDER BUTTONS
THE SUBBOOK ...................-           OBJECTS
THE SUBPOEM ...................-           A CHAIR: NUMBER 18
STANZAS..............................-           9
WORD COUNT......................-           256
THE LEADER........................-           THE STEINY ROAD POET
GENRE..................................-           VIRTUAL OPERA
LOCATION............................-           USA, UK, Australia, Philippines, S. Africa, Canada.
TIME......................................-           ALL HOURS OF EARTH’S CLOCK
TONE.....................................-           CLANDESTINE & MOURNFUL


A widow in a wise veil and more garments shows that shadows are even. It addresses no more, it shadows the stage and learning. A regular arrangement, the severest and the most preserved is that which has the arrangement not more than always authorised.

A suitable establishment, well housed, practical, patient and staring, a suitable bedding, very suitable and not more particularly than complaining, anything suitable is so necessary.

A fact is that when the direction is just like that, no more, longer, sudden and at the same time not any sofa, the main action is that without a blaming there is no custody.

Practice measurement, practice the sign that means that really means a necessary betrayal, in showing that there is wearing.

Hope, what is a spectacle, a spectacle is the resemblance between the circular side place and nothing else, nothing else.

To choose it is ended, it is actual and more than that it has it certainly has the same treat, and a seat all that is practiced and more easily much more easily ordinarily.

Pick a barn, a whole barn, and bend more slender accents than have ever been necessary, shine in the darkness necessarily.

Actually not aching, actually not aching, a stubborn bloom is so artificial and even more than that, it is a spectacle, it is a binding accident, it is animosity and accentuation.

If the chance to dirty diminishing is necessary, if it is why is there no complexion, why is there no rubbing, why is there no special protection.

Now, Dear Reader, you have arrived in time for dramatic spectacle and there are plenty of chairs in the house.


Practice measurement, practice the sign that means that really means a necessary betrayal, in showing that there is wearing.

Steiny led the charge on stanza 4 finding at first signs of accessories for mourning clothes.

Widow's weeds included weepers -- removable cuffs.

Cuffs of lawn were 9" long, according to the size of the wrist. The fabric was not intended to overlap, but to meet; they were fastened with two buttons and loops placed at the upper and lower edges. These large cuffs were referred to as weepers because one could use them to wipe the nose during crying fits.

Lawn is a fabric that was used to make caps, cuffs, and collars. Lawn takes it name from the town of Laon France located in Northeast France. It's a type of linen that was for garments for the clergy.  

Crepe, used for the veil and trim, is the fabric most associated with mourning. The fabric is made from silk and similar to crepe de chine; in this instance “crepe” refers to the crinkled surface of the lightweight fabric. Mourning crepe was made from gummed tightly twisted silk threads. It was a volatile and hazardous fabric. In the rain, it would shrivel and practically disintegrate. Rainproof crepe was introduced at the turn of the 20th century, but it didn’t change things much. Constant breathing through the fabric caused many respiratory health problems.

Crepe was a definitely a betrayal to the woman in mourning since it was a health hazard.

Much later, Steiny had other thoughts, thinking this stanza captures some of the issues of dividing up the household between Gertrude and Leo when he decided to move out and leave 27 rue de Fleurus. Words in this stanza like betrayal and wearing made Steiny think that. Here we are talking a civil (no yelling or screaming) separation but there were hard feelings over Picasso’s influence on Gertrude’s writing and Steiny puts this into the category of civil war.

Steiny’s entrance in seeing this stanza as domestic battle began with word play. The word 'practice' is used twice. Stein is always up to something when she repeats.

prac·tice  (prkts)
v. prac·ticed, prac·tic·ing, prac·tic·es
1. To do or perform habitually or customarily; make a habit of: practices courtesy in social situations.
2. To do or perform (something) repeatedly in order to acquire or polish a skill: practice a dance step.
3. To give lessons or repeated instructions to; drill: practiced the students in handwriting.
4. To work at, especially as a profession: practice law.
5. To carry out in action; observe: practices a religion piously.
6. Obsolete To plot (something evil).
1. To do or perform something habitually or repeatedly.
2. To do something repeatedly in order to acquire or polish a skill.
3. To work at a profession.
4. Archaic To intrigue or plot.
1. A habitual or customary action or way of doing something: makes a practice of being punctual.
a. Repeated performance of an activity in order to learn or perfect a skill: Practice will make you a good musician.
b. A session of preparation or performance undertaken to acquire or polish a skill: goes to piano practice weekly; scheduled a soccer practice for Saturday.
c. Archaic The skill so learned or perfected.
d. The condition of being skilled through repeated exercise: out of practice.
3. The act or process of doing something; performance or action: a theory that is difficult to put into practice.
4. Exercise of an occupation or profession: the practice of law.
5. The business of a professional person: an obstetrician with her own practice.
6. A habitual or customary action or act. Often used in the plural: That company engages in questionable business practices. Facial tattooing is a standard practice among certain peoples.
7. Law The methods of procedure used in a court of law.
8. Archaic
a. The act of tricking or scheming, especially with malicious intent.
b. A trick, scheme, or intrigue.

Stein having been a student of William James was very tuned into the word 'habitual.' That which was rote or habitual was NOT good. Habitual was old stuff (stuff belonging in museums). It took away the possibility for genius.

In the other stanzas are words like: (Stanza 1) It addresses no more (Leo won't be living at 27 after 1913), A regular arrangement, most preserved, always authorized [habitual stuff].
 (Stanza 2) A suitable establishment, well housed, suitable bedding, not more particularly than complaining [the stuff of daily living].
 (Stanza 3) not any sofa, the main action is that without a blaming there is no custody [how to divide the household goods?]
 (Stanza 5) Hope, what is a spectacle [Here enters the emotional side of breaking up with her brother.]
 (Stanza 6) it is ended, it is actual and more than that it has it certainly has the same treat, and a seat all that is practiced and more easily much more easily ordinarily. [Here again comes the word practice(d) and what has been habitual, Gertrude and Leo living together is ended. They are no longer sitting together and making the salon together.]
 (Stanza 7) The root word for barn: [Middle English bern, from Old English berærn : bere, barley; see bhares- in Indo-European roots + ærn, house.] This stanza refers to a room perhaps in 27 rue de Fleurus, which was known to be dark. Sometimes people lit matches to see the paintings. Gertrude had electricity installed after Leo moved out in 1913. Undoubtedly people who frequented 27 may have had accents, perhaps some that were affected.
(Stanza 8) The word animosity and accentuation resonate for the bad feelings between Gertrude and Leo as does aching though the claim is not aching, that seems hard to believe.
(Stanza 9) Dirty diminishing (Leo telling Gertrude her writing is nonsense). Leo used to be Gertrude's protector and now that they are splitting there is no special protection.


Barbara Crary called dibs on stanza 5 because she saw a connection to “A Carafe, That Is a Blind Glass.” through the word spectacle, but also “relating the curvature of the temple piece over the ears to the curved arms of an ornate chair, the ‘circular side piece.’"

Hope, what is a spectacle, a spectacle is the resemblance between the circular side piece and nothing else, nothing else.

“As I stated in a response to Stanza 8, I've connected hope to spectacle to suggest that the mourner is so caught up in the hope that the unchangeable can be changed or reversed that (s)he has turned the time of mourning into a spectacle, perhaps not a pretense of mourning, but a spectacle that focuses attention on the bereaved rather than on the person who has died.  

“I've thought a lot about the phrase  "the resemblance between the circular side piece and nothing else" and this is where it's led me so far.  The thing that makes the most sense to me at the moment is to see/hear this as ‘the circular sighed peace.’ If something is circular, it is shaped like, or moves like, a circle with no beginning and no end; it's neverending.  The "sigh" could be the last exhalation of breath leading to eternal ‘peace.’ For all of us, death is the ultimate unknowable thing, so we can't say what it is like, what it resembles.  Words fail us in trying to describe death—it is like nothing else.  And after death, there is nothing else—except perhaps for hope of a reunion in the afterlife?

“I still have the a spectacle is the resemblance between the circular side piece, with the idea of the temple of a pair of glasses resembling the arm of an ornate chair as in these:”

Additionally Barbara mentioned “all the ‘s’ sounds in circular side(sighed) piece(peace) echoing those sighs.” She concluded with how this stanza made her think of Emily Dickinson, "’Circular’ led me to think of ‘Success in circuit lies,’ while "Hope" is, of course, "the thing with feathers."  And she concluded with these paragraphs drawn from Susan’s Howe’s My Emily Dickinson, which compares ED with GS relative to their breaking with European literary traditions and particularly male domination:

As poetry changes itself it changes the poet's life. Subversion at- tracted the two of them. By 1860 it was as impossible for Emily Dickinson simply to translate English poetic tradition as it was for Walt Whitman. In prose and in poetry she explored the implications of breaking the law just short of breaking off communication with a reader. Starting from scratch, she exploded habits of standard human intercourse in her letters, as she cut across the customary chronological linearity of poetry. Gertrude Stein (1874-1946), influenced by Cezanne, Picasso and Cubism, verbally elaborated on visual invention. She reached in words for new vision formed from the process of naming, as if a first woman were sounding, not describing, "space of time filled with moving." Repetition, surprise, alliteration, odd rhyme and rhythm, dislocation, deconstruction. To restore the original clarity of each word-skeleton both women lifted the load of European literary custom. Adopting old strategies, they reviewed and re-invented them.
Emily Dickinson and Gertrude Stein also conducted a skillful and ironic investigation of patriarchal authority over literary history. Who polices questions of grammar, parts of speech, connection, and connotation? Whose order is shut inside the structure of a sentence? What inner articulation releases the coils and complications of Saying's assertion? In very different ways the countermovement of these two women's work penetrates to the indefinite limits of written.

Then Steiny looked at this stanza again saying, “it might be worthwhile to look up spectacle since it was used twice in this stanza.”
spec·ta·cle  (spkt-kl)
a. Something that can be seen or viewed, especially something of a remarkable or impressive nature.
b. A public performance or display, especially one on a large or lavish scale.
c. A regrettable public display, as of bad behavior: drank too much and made a spectacle of himself.

[Middle English, from Old French, from Latin spectculum, from spectre, to watch, frequentative ofspecere, to look at; see spek- in Indo-European roots.]

And lo and behold, in the definitions of spectacle, mention of a public performance, made Steiny think of the night Abraham Lincoln was killed. And who killed him? The actor John Wilkes Booth and the play Lincoln was watching was Our American Cousin. According to Wikipedia, the play is “a farce whose plot is based on the introduction of an awkward, boorish, but honest American, Asa Trenchard, to his aristocratic English relatives when he goes to England to claim the family estate.”

However more interesting than that is the line from Our American Cousin that cued Booth to proceed with the assassination of Lincoln:

"Well, I guess I know enough to turn you inside out, old gal — you sockdologizing old man-trap."

While the audience laughed at this line, Booth shot and killed Lincoln.

Sockdologizing is a nonsense word, possibly meaning in this context scheming. Steiny suspects that Gertrude knew this detail and then she meditated on that word full of O’s, bringing her to spectacles, as in the rounded lenses of eyeglasses worn in those days and perhaps a part of the weapon (the rounded trigger guard protecting the trigger) that killed the sixteenth president of the United States. 

The words side piece made Steiny think of sidearm, as in the weapon used to shoot Lincoln. Also, slang for gun can be a piece. Running all of this together— circular side piece and sidearm—melds the imagery of the ornate rocking chair Lincoln sat in with the rounded trigger guard protecting the trigger which when pulled killed the leader who ended slavery.

Both stanzas 4 and 5 root the reader in location and method as do stanzas 2 and 3 but 4 and 5 have a fantastic edge as the words propel into dramatic scenarios playing betrayal against hope.

1 comment:

Karren Alenier said...

In the study of CHAIR, the group saw a connection to the Lincoln assassination. Barbara Crary (Beeb) pointed out the connection to CARAFE with words like "spectacle" and "arrangement" but Steiny went in a little deeper and discovered that Lincoln was seeing the play "Our American Cousin" the night he was shot by John Wilkes Booth. Then reading the first line of CARAFE, became chilling:

"A kind in glass and a cousin [title of the play Lincoln was seeing], a spectacle [a play] and nothing strange a single hurt color [blood] and an arrangement in a system to pointing."