Thursday, December 26, 2013

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

Dear Reader, if you have made through the entire nine stanzas, you will notice this is where the chair transcends to the seat of authority, death or clandestine sexual encounter. You might need sturdy boots for this one.


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.

Nicola Quinn launched the discussion of stanza 9 in partnership with Claudia Schumann.

“Four phrases, 2 starting with 'if' and 2 with 'why', and phrases 2 and 4 rhyme. (Plus 8/8/5/6 words in each.)

“Was thinking of 'if' as chance but it's not, it's cause and effect, as in 'if this, then that'. 

“Chance - possibility, coincidence, accidental, risk
To dirty - to sully.
Diminish - decrease, lessen.
Necessary - obligatory, imperative, inexorable, inescapable or as a noun, the basics, requirements of life.
Complexion - skin colour/tone or perspective, angle, slant (!)
Rubbing - impression of a design.
Special - exceptional, noteworthy, outstanding.
Protection - defence, preservation, sanctuary.”

Despite Barbara Crary saying she had little to say and that was “why this poor little stanza stood orphaned for so long—t's a toughie,” a few things occurred to her.  “I keep hearing dirty diminishing in the context of death, with the phrase from Ecclesiastes 3:20 echoing in my mind: ‘All go to one place. All are from the dust, and to dust all return.’  Death is necessary and we probably never fail to ask why is there no special protection, even in the case of the death of a great man (if we want to come back to a Lincoln connection.)  Those middle sections continue to elude me, though.  

Claudia Schumann responded:

If we make something dirty, we diminish it. Maybe it has something to do with their [Gertrude and Alice’s] relationship—the prejudice and misinformation about two women enjoying a loving relationship makes it look dirty in the eyes of some. And in Gertrude's eyes it sullies the relationship. Sad.

“Why is there no complexion (why don't they see what their love is really like)? Why is there no rubbing (why is their no understanding or sympathy? or why does no one rub them on the back and say you are appreciated?)

“Why is there no protection (why is there no one to stand up for them and defend their relationship)?

“Of course, from reading the biography (Souhami, Gertrude and Alice), I'm not sure this train of thought will work. The only one who really disapproved of everything that Gertrude did was her brother, Leo. Maybe this was a way of Gertrude saying how much it hurt her that her brother was so hateful, especially when they were so close when they were growing up together.”

Steiny added her two cents:
“I've been thinking about your thoughts on Stanza 9 and all the opened ended questions. Then I thought about the Civil War associations and the Lincoln assassination.  My flight of fantasy is that John Wilkes Booth had to steal way from Ford's Theater and not be recognized so he blackened his white face with dirt to diminish his complexion, which was a form of protection. He could not allow himself to rub what itched on his face lest he blow his cover since there was no others to provide special protection. He was on his own.”

Then Eleanor rolled up her sleeves and added this commentary which also reflected back on stanza 8:

This phrase is so evocative of death (oh, look, another 'D').

“The corpse is buried in the dirt, is diminished - decomposed (yet another 'D'), and becomes dirt itself --- the dirt from which a stubborn bloom might grow. But if this stubborn bloom grows from dirt, which is, in fact, a decomposed human, then that bloom is man-made and may therefore be classified as artificial.

“Stubborn bloom grows from dirt that is, in fact, a decomposed human, then that bloom is man-made and may therefore be classified as artificial.

A body offers special protection for all of the innards—blood, organs etc.
A body offers special protection for the physical and spiritual integrity of the individual.

“A corpse is buried out in the elements, a gravestone is a offers no protection.

“Previously in this poem there have been allusions to physical structures, which offer protection, e.g. a veil, a suitable establishment, well housed, a whole barn.

“Mentioning the barn, in the comment box above, has reminded me of cows. One of you mentioned a while back that have a cow is GS's code word for have an orgasm. Does a barn offer the cow protection?

“There seems to be a really strong connection being made in this poem between death and orgasm. It would therefore be highly remiss of us not to highlight the fact that the word RUBBING has sexual connotations, especially in (but certainly not limited to) the world of lesbian love-making. Google lesbian rubbing and rubbing on chairs at your own risk. GS was taking massive risks in this poem (in my opinion), and the erotic imagery hidden behind her words in this poem is still a somewhat taboo subject in 2013.”

Another thought Steiny has after reflecting on what has already been said about this difficult stanza is that complexion, coming after that pair of speculative but cause-and-effect if’s, might point to something more philosophical, as in the nature or character of something. If the stanza was talking about the aftermath of Lincoln’s assassination, during the Reconstruction period, there was an underhanded (dirty) diminishing of some legislation to help the Black population transition from slavery despite the moral nature (complexion) that one would expect to continue in the wake of the extensive mourning for the fallen leader. The questions remain as to why there was no further polishing (rubbing) of the laws and why there was no special protection for these liberated people.

However, Steiny also thinks this same kind of discussion could be derived for the lesbian lovers. Again here is Stein reaching in various dimensions of poetic thought.


In his book Appreciation: Painting, Poetry and Prose (published in 1947), Leo Stein wrote:

“It is better to read a difficult poem a dozen times, than to read it once and then have it explained to you. In the one case the process of re-creation takes place and in the other it does not. To get to know what a poem is about is not a matter of importance… It’s best to take poetry for its poetic value, if one can.”

Therefore, Dear Reader, the study process of the Button Collective is a re-creation of Gertrude Stein’s poem Tender Buttons. That the Steiny Road Poet has chosen to give you a long inside look at how this process of discovery works here in “A Chair.” with six parts to the discussion is only odd because Steiny quotes Leo Stein, the brother of Gertrude Stein who stated many times that what his sister wrote was nonsense. At the end of Leo’s life (he died in 1947, almost one year to the day of Gertrude’s death), he said there was no contention between his sister and himself. While this is not true, his Appreciation book shows how close they were in their approach to art.

Maybe Steiny will give a glimpse on another occasion about Leo’s views on the importance of sex in a work of art. Meanwhile, Dear Reader, read “A Chair.” again and get into the SloPo method used by the Button Collective to read Tender Buttons.

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