Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Stepping on Tender Buttons: “Eye Glasses.” & “A Cutlet.”


THE BOOK ..........................-           TENDER BUTTONS
THE SUBBOOK ...................-           OBJECTS
THE SUBPOEM ...................-           EYE GLASSES: NUMBER 26
WORD COUNT......................-          15
THE SUBPOEM ...................-           A CUTLET: NUMBER 27
WORD COUNT......................-          7
STANZAS..............................-           1 each
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.....................................-           COCKY

“…another word for eye glasses is spectacles.  People often make a spectacle of themselves when they frequent saloons.” Tamboura Gaskins

“…violence seems to be part of these UN-still lives.” The Steiny Road Poet


A color in shaving, a saloon is well placed in the centre of an alley.


A blind agitation is manly and uttermost.

What The Button Collective is learning from the SloPo reading of Tender Buttons is that the subpoems of Section 1 “Objects” have physical (of the body) and mental (of the playful mind) planes of associations. The Steiny Road Poet uses the word associations because meaning is not always the exact result of Tender Buttons Massive Open Online Study Group’s efforts. Besides the physical and mental planes, Stein also, but not always (or at least this is harder to detect), ventures into a metaphysical plane. Metaphysics opens up questions of being and knowing, what is the nature of reality, like what is the external world made of and who or what made that world.


As the discussion opened on these two very short subpoems that between them count only 22 words exclusive of the titles, Tamboura made her comment about spectacles (above) and Claudia Schumann noted A color in shaving is blood and could not this blood some how point to menses, a woman’s monthly flow of blood? While Steiny noted words like shaving and saloon and, of course, manly that seed the two subpoems with masculinity, she also thought there is something more about the woman's body. Maybe the saloon stands for the opportunity of sexual contact for the male with ladies of ill repute who frequent a saloon?

Eleanor Smagarinsky and Mary Armour picked up the whiff of the female body to talk about “Hair removal...a loaded topic,” mused Eleanor. “I'm thinking of Alice's prominent moustache, the pressure on women to be hairless, and the comparison between the seeing of the first poem and the blindness of the next poem.”

Prominent moustache, Eleanor?” Mary didn’t hold back:

“Fabulous tickly unwaxed glorious hirsute curly kissable, etc. I like women with moustaches and plenty of body hair, who doesn't?

“I had a friend who used to wax off her upper lip growth once a month and she would  apply the hot wax, let it dry as she  stayed at home baking and then only rip it off when the doorbell rang. She would stand in the open doorway howling with pain, her eyes filled with tears, a very red upper lip and a little  waxy centipede in one hand.



Later Dave Green said, referring to Tamboura Gaskins’ unabashed open talk about the possible sexual nature of the subpoem “A New Cup and Saucer.”:

“Tamboura taught me that my interpretations are too innocent. So allow me to essay a Tambourian interpretation here and please brace yourself.
“The poem is about the pelvic area of Gertrude's lover Alice. In the center of that area lies Gertrude's ‘saloon,’ the place where she gets drunk sexually. Why ‘Eyeglasses’? Well, eyeglasses are worn on a face so maybe that is saying something about Gertrude's position during lovemaking vis-a-vis the subject of the poem.
“How'd I do, Tamboura?”
“Excellent, Dave. I am with you all the way,” answered Tamboura and added onto to the subject of bowling alleys that Judy Meibach had raised:
“Let me riff a bit on this—alley = bowling alley, bowling lane with the vagina shape like a ten-pin setup; saloon = a place to get a drink as well as a place where men go to have a good time.

A color in shaving ==> shaving cream ==> semen

saloon ==> a man's pelvic area,  sal = the penis connected to oo = the balls which are slightly behind.

“Here, GS is juxtaposing male genitalia with female genitalia as they would be positioned during the sex act—a saloon, the penis, is well placed in the center of the alley, the vagina.  And when the placement is right, there is color in shaving...there is semen.”

As stated in the masthead of this blogpost, the TB MOOSG is on a world clock so one morning Steiny woke up to this exchange and exclaimed:

“I'm waking up to 52 degrees Fahrenheit here in Washington DC but after steeping in all these readings of steam creamy sex, it feels like 102. Go Gtrude! Belly up to A bar. Drink A nectar. Get shit-faced drunk. Zing zing bingo!

“Now let me look into that innocent cutlet which could be a slab of meet—I mean meat or...
“Ok see there--the meaning about croquette—coquette. Yes!? The cutlet is clearly Alice.
cut·let (ktlt) n.
1.    A thin slice of meat, usually veal or lamb, cut from the leg or ribs.
2.    A patty of chopped meat or fish, usually coated with bread crumbs and fried; a flat croquette.
[French côtelette, from Old French costelette, diminutive of coste, rib, from Latin costa; see kost- in Indo-European roots.]

While Sarah Maitland Parks alluded to “all sorts of sexual connotations,” she saw a cutlet as “A cocktail being shaken before dinner.”

Left wondering whether a cocktail named “A Cutlet” was made with absinthe, Steiny retreated to an online dictionary to discover that among the definitions for saloon was “4. Chiefly British A sedan automobile.” Yes, indeed, Steiny could see that British sedan well placed in the centre of an alley. [The saloon sedan is stretch beyond the time Stein wrote Tender Buttons and most likely didn’t appear until the mid 1920’s.]


In a spate of radical rewriting, Sarah rewrote “Eye Glasses.”:

“I thought that without glasses on, all I could see in the mirror is coloured blurriness. Similarly, without glasses on, an alley might look well-appointed and welcoming, instead of cold, dank and dirty.

“I also thought that the sentence lent itself to being rewritten:

“A skill in shaving, a razor is well placed in the centre of a cheek.
A color in painting, a dab is well placed in the centre of an eye.

“All the words could be different, yet keep the nouns and verbs where they are. Or just the syllable counts for each word could be kept, or just the first letter of each word.  

“There is something about the rhythm of the original sentence which appeals to me.”

Peter Treanor came online with:

“Well you can see from (eye) glasses, lasses and asses in the title [‘Eye Glasses.’].
“Maybe the saloon is a bar, a place or a room with a suggestion of sexual availability and freedom, a sexual spectacle. A spectacular spectacle.
“And the OO in saloon, well that looks like a pair of specs and a pair of breasts or a nice big bottom. And well placed in the centre of an alley lies anal ley, an anal lay or anally perhaps.  My gaydar doth flash. There is color in shaving such an establishment nearby and a masculinity in shaving (and having), unless you think of shaving legs that is more the preserve of the feminine. And a saloon (a room) at the centre of an alley, that alley could be seen as two legs (smooth and shaven) and the saloon at their centre (and up at the top) is a spectacle (eye glass) to behold. OO er!
“And those double l's in well and alley look like a pair of legs too!


noun (plural alleys)
3. a narrow passageway between or behind buildings: he took a short cut along an alley there were a few muggings in the backstreets and alleys
4.  a path lined with trees, bushes, or stones: alleys of standing stones
5.  [with modifier] a long, narrow area in which games such as skittles and bowling are played: a skittle alley
6.  TennisNorth American either of the two side strips between the singles sideline and the sidelines which count as part of the court in a doubles match.
7.  Baseball the area between the outfielders in left-centre or right-centre field.

“So Alley is a narrow bushy passageway or path, what can she [Stein] be thinking of?”

Without directly answering Peter’s question, Steiny added another set of definitions for alley:
“In the Free DICtionary, we also get this for alley”:

al·ley 1  (l)
n. pl. al·leys
1. A narrow street or passageway between or behind city buildings.
2. A path between flower beds or trees in a garden or park.
3. Sports
a. A straight narrow course or track, especially a bowling alley.
b. Either of the parallel lanes at the sides of a tennis court,
which widen the inbounds area for doubles play.
up (one's) alley Informal
Compatible with one's interests or qualifications: an assignment that is right up your alley.
[Middle English alei, from Old French alee, from aler, to walk, from Latin ambulre; see ambulate.]”

Then Steiny said, “Alice is Gtrude's flower garden, no?”

However, Eleanor had moved her reality to a ballpark, a place we Buttons had been before in other TB subpoems.
“Considering the previous baseball connections we made, I lOOked a bit further into that allusion (5th in Peter's list of definitions, above):
Also gap or power alley, the space between the leftfielder and the centerfielder, or the rightfielder and centerfielder. If a batter hits the ball up the alley with enough force, he has a stronger chance of advancing beyond first base and being credited with an extra-base hit. Typically, this is an appropriate term for describing a line drive or ground ball; fly balls that hit the wall are not normally described this way.”
Dave retreating to word play offered: "’Alley’ = ‘all eyes’ or ‘Ali’ as short for ‘Alice’?”
Peter connecting a few dots answered, “There seems to be a lot of eye (I) and Ali, together like oo at the centre of saloon. oo could look like two heads, kissing maybe? Now weren’t they together like vv in the last poem [how W is formed from two V’s]? Is she going through the alphabet trying to pair them up in letters as much as she can? A marriage of letters?”


Allan Keeton offered, ruminating on the French word for (aller), something Claudia had brought up earlier—we Buttons have a habit relay teamwork:

“I think that Vous allez? Do you go?
is French slang for are you gay?

“I think this, because I was in a guitar store in Montreal once & on my way out a guy said Vous allez?

“I thought he was asking if I was leaving, so I said oui & left,
but I noticed an odd & lascivious look on his face as I did so.”


Meanwhile Eleanor had broken apart the word elbow and had set out the definition of bow with some commentary on el:

1a knot tied with two loops and two loose ends.
2a weapon for shooting arrows, typically made of a curved piece of wood joined at both ends by a taut string.
3a long, partially curved rod with horsehair stretched along its length, used for playing the violin and other stringed instruments.
4a curved stroke forming part of a letter (e.g. bp).
5a metal ring forming the handle of a key or pair of scissors.

     North American a sidepiece or lens frame of a pair of glasses.

“I was surprised by a couple of those definitions (I highlighted them).
Also, of course—there's the bow you do, when you meet royalty or for a curtain call. And the bow of a ship.

“I suppose the EL brings to mind the Spanish ‘THE,’ or maybe also Arabic.”

Stepping back to admire Eleanor’s scaffolding, Peter marveled, El beau, the beauty. Is that a mix of French and Spanish? The beau elect or erect even.
Pleased, Eleanor answered: “OMG. Yes. El beau. The male beauty elect/erect. For the first time since we came across elbow in "Objects.", I feel like Stein's use of the word makes sense!!”

And while it seems we Buttons worked exclusively on the physical and imaginative planes (dealing with word play), “Eye Glasses.” and “A Cutlet.” opened exploration of the outer world as well as Gertrude Stein’s inner world. Stein has said she was a male persona, the husband in the union with Alice Toklas, and so these manly manifestations of shaving, saloons, and blind agitation offered a challenge to ordinary reality.
While there were many other associations that were made in this study session that included mutton chop sideburns, the drinking of absinthe (Green fairy, anyone?), the extremely near-sighted friend of Gertrude and Alice—Marie Laurencin, and her boyfriend the gifted poet who promoted cubism Guillaume Apollinaire, Steiny thinks this summary by Mary will be enough:
“Remember that carafe and the hurt color? I'm thinking of colorless vodka, glassy eyes behind the  monocles. The shavings of ice, the  speak-easy or saloon where everybody knows your name so long as you can find the alley.
“Gertrude didn't approve of drunks as I recall, she saw too many artists on absinthe. And there was Natalie Barney's crowd misbehaving and blaming the liquor.
“Cocktail shaker, a squirt of shaving cream, the naked pink face, the saloon [car] right out there in the centre of the dark alley, alleycats slinking around, the blood from a shaving cut that dries to brown crumble—I keep thinking of Hemingway, bar-lover, promiscuous, that pumped-up fake macho, the vanity of those who won't wear eyeglasses. Do you wear glasses in order to shave safely?”

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