Sunday, February 23, 2014

Stepping on Tender Buttons: “Water Raining.” & “Cold Climate.”


THE BOOK ..........................-           TENDER BUTTONS
THE SUBBOOK ...................-           OBJECTS
THE SUBPOEM ...................-           WATER RAINING: NUMBER 31
WORD COUNT......................-           11
THE SUBPOEM ...................-           COLD CLIMATE: NUMBER 32
WORD COUNT......................-           10
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.....................................-           EFFUSIVE

Rain can make a meadow or it can make a flood. The meadow is passive. The stroke is violent.” Randy Parker


Water astonishing and difficult altogether makes a meadow and a stroke.


A season in yellow sold extra strings makes lying places.

The Steiny Road Poet saw the key words for this study session as water, raining, meadow, stroke, yellow, strings, lying. A great deal of the comments focused on objects in the natural world but veered languorously into painting, writing, the Stein love relationships, saffron, the yellow fever epidemic of 1793, string theory, and kabbalah.


Here are some samples:

From Randy Parker:
Making a meadow is life-giving.

“Making a stroke--well that could be the painting reference that we talked about in ModPo—standing water in the meadow like a stroke of white or grey paint. But a stroke is a kind of statement. A striking, perhaps. Like lightning.  A stroke of genius. A stroke of bad luck. A debilitating physical stroke. Stroke can also refer to swimming.”


From Peter Treanor:

 “I wonder if water raining could be tears, is she or Alice crying? Raining seems like a very active description of what is happening to the water.  Its astonishing and difficult, maybe they have argued. And the flow of tears makes you wipe/stoke them away.

“And stretching it too far probably, could meadow be "me adieu", me ( GS) saying goodbye. Maybe that’s why there are tears, one of them is leaving?
 I like Randy's reading of this too and like the idea of the meadow as a meadow, and a meadow is such a good place to make hay..
 And "altogether" seems so "all to get her" every time I see it now that I wonder if the meadow is Alice and the stroke is GS stroking her, her meadow, and if the water is GS raining/ reigning down her love and (wet) passion, making hay and making the meadow's wild flowers grow.

“I was [also] thinking of the ways that water is seemingly like love. How it flows, how we get swept away in it, flooded  by it, lost in a sea of it, have oceans of it, float in it, swim in it, drown in it, set  sail away on an ocean of it. Are buoyed up by it. Love and water go together like a cup and saucer.

from Claudia Schumann:

“Water raining is like water passing by (or may mean people passing by). Maybe GS is thinking of May Bookstaver [Stein’s college lover] and trying to forget.”


From Allan Keeton:

This makes me think of the strokes of paint in daoist watercolor paintings.

“I am struck by the graceful (astonishing & difficult to achieve)
harmony between humans & nature.”


from Mary Armour:

“This [“Water Raining.”] brought back a memory of walking in a wet spring through water meadows near Richmond, London, grasses undulating and surfing my calves, and later watching some androgynous swimmer doing breast stroke in an Olympic-sized pool, the swift parting of waters and  cleaving, not as dramatic as  swimming the butterfly stroke and heaving up shoulders but scooping water horizontally, parting of ways like the Red Sea, like  tall grasses in Africa.
“The crawl stroke was what we were taught at school, the swift clean slicing forward motion taught after we graduated from doggy paddle. We had to practise it at the side of the pool before we got into the water, moving our arms through the air as if air was lighter helium-filled water.

“Then I thought about something else—a rain spider nest disintegrating into shreds of silk on the ivy hedge outside my study window, the way silk reflects light in ripples like and unlike water—and I went off to find an article by Joan Retallack I read last year during ModPo. How light is both a wave and a particle and how that understanding changes conventional ways of seeing a meadow, grass rising and falling like  waves of water, rain falling in pencil strokes against glass. How quantum physics has upturned all my older Cartesian/Newtonian notions about what I am seeing.”
Retallack from “What Is Experimental Poetry and Why Do We Need It?”:
In the early twentieth century, Niels Bohr was concerned about pressures that new theories in physics (the successful ones that were being hailed as discoveries) were exerting on conventional visualizations of causality. Max Planck’s discovery of the quantum of action had produced the then startling, now familiar, contradictory conceptions of the propagation of light. The particle/wave contradiction illuminated a more complex, counterintuitive substrate of what had been thought of as the logical limits of the intelligible real. It could not be accounted for by descriptive conventions embedded in the language of theory to date.

Allan connected “Water Raining.” and “Cold Climate.” With the words stroke and strings.

“Wow astonishing & difficult stuff here.

Strokes of lightning are far more astonishing in their complexity than previously thought.”

Allan provided a tutorial on Transient Luminous Events, electrical phenomena that include red sprites, blue jets, and elves. Some of these electrical flashes resemble jellyfish, carrots, or columns. He also found the following image of yellow lightning with multiple electrical strings, saying it was “water raining with extra yellow strings of lightning” and that the image “recalls the extra dimensions needed for the vibrational patterns of the strings in string theory.”


In pouring over “Cold Climate.”, the Buttons had these kind of exchanges.

Randy: “In Cold Climate, I like the phrase lying places. Places for animals or livestock to bed down? Or places where the truth is not told? Places that aren't what they seem?


“Cold Climate, makes me think of winter or spring, and a season in yellow well that makes me think sun or summer. But the cold and the climate and the yellow and the lying places (beds) make me think of daffodils. And Daffodils come up in the cold season and need frost to germinate, are planted in beds. And I somehow think that GS wouldn’t have missed the allusion to Narcissus if she was thinking of daffodils, so what to make of that?
String is interesting too, the twine that could hold a bunch of flowers, or the lines that the flowers are planted in. The dictionary definitions include, thread (a series of small objects) on a string: (string something together) add items to one another to form a series or coherent whole—a sequence of similar items or events (Just like she is doing in TB). Or stringing someone along maybe or twine or entwined or twinned.
“But with the feeling of cold and winter and Narcissus and strings (maybe playing your own strings), is she talking of a cold frosty place in their relationship? Is she talking about times when she or Alice lie in their lying place, (bed) and fall out of connection with each other and love and pleasure themselves, stroke their own pens (in the meadows of pleasure)? Does she feel cold and left out, sold down the river, and that it (their closeness) is a lie (a lying place) and that she is being strung along or doing the stringing along?

“Or does she feel that these extra strings (to their bow) attach them further, bind and tie them together  (to get her)? Strings as ST RINGS Stein/Toklas rings of betrothal/ marriage/ connection maybe?
I think its interesting that cold and sold rhyme too but don’t know what to see in it, apart from old, that is.”

“Intriguing that mate is right there in "Cold Climate.".

Here Steiny injected her two cents:
How about climate==>lic(k) mate?”

Peter: “Karren [a.k.a. Steiny], clit is there too (in climate) but you made me say it.”


The spice of love also conjured such seasonings as curry and saffron.

Peter: “A season in yellow or maybe yellow seasoning, and came up with saffron one of the most valuable spices sold at the highest of prices, turns everything yellow. And it looks so very stringy red threads and yellow styles.

“And Saffron's aroma is often described by connoisseurs as reminiscent of metallic honey with grassy or hay-like notes, while its taste has also been noted as hay-like and sweet.” [referring to meadow in “Water Raining.”]


Then Peter looked at how these two subpoems together:

I saw lying places as possibly graves. And a season in yellow that made graves what could this be? I thought maybe Yellow fever, which seemed at first to be related to warm climates not cold, until I saw there had been epidemics as far north as New York, but that could be in the summer, when hot.”
The yellow fever epidemic of 1793 in Philadelphia, which was then the capital of the United States, resulted in the deaths of several thousand people, more than nine percent of the population. The national government fled the city, including president George Washington.[41] Additional yellow fever epidemics in North America struck Philadelphia, as well as Baltimore and New York in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and traveled along steamboat routes of interior rivers from New Orleans. They caused some 100,000–150,000 deaths in total.[42]

“So I thought about influenza and saw there had been an outbreak of Asian or Russian Flu in 1889 that started in Russia but spread through out Europe quickly due to the improved transport networks. It spread to Paris and London and across to the USA with outbreaks in New York, the following year it spread worldwide. In Europe, the 1889–1890 influenza was the greatest single killer epidemic of the nineteenth century, claiming 270,000 to 360,000 lives. The Russians claimed that the epidemic had been started by the flooding of the yellow river in China.

“But what of sold extra strings? Well a dip into the folk remedies of the time (and now) reveals a belief that Flu can be warded off or absorbed by putting onions around the room, sliced or whole. And with no cultural stereotyping involved we all know that a Frenchman likes a nice string of onions. I can imagine that the sale of onions went up during these times of epidemics as people believed they would ward off the deadly Flu.”


Here Steiny, pulling on extra raingear, will emerge from the low-lying places of this summary to say that Gertrude Stein steeped herself in the lives of her friends. While she did not keep a personal journal, she loved hearing everyone’s daily stories and often details from the day went into Stein’s creative writing. Maybe if these subpoems refer to love spats that they might belong not to Gertrude and Alice but to Pablo Picasso and Fernande Olivier or to Guillaume Apollinaire and Marie Laurencin. Also Fernande left Pablo in 1912 when he began seeing Marcelle Humbert (a.k.a. Eva Gouel). Eva, as Pablo called her, died in 1915 possibly of tuberculosis so it’s possible Gertrude knew of Eva’s illness when she was writing the “Objects” section.

In introducing this study session to the Buttons, Steiny suggested that there might be touchstones to such subpoems as “Careless Water.”, “A Substance in a Cushion.”, and “A Piece of Coffee.” Here’s what a newcomer to the discussion had to say about “Water Raining.” and the connection to “Careless Water.”:

“According to what I know of the water-heaven relationship, water is created in Genesis as "here, water." Mayim is created on Sunday (assuming that's the first day of creation, and Saturday—Shabbat—being the day of rest.  Monday, God created shem-mayim, literally there waters.  Hebrew distinguishes between here (po) and there (shem).  Note that water in Hebrew is waterS, plural, because composed of many drops.  Anyhow, when the there waters were separated from mayim (face of the earth) it was exceedingly painful, much as birth of infant; such immense bodies of water being pulled out of the waters is painful.  Therefore on Monday, there is no and it was good.  But on Tuesday  (third day of creation), it  is said twice to make up for day before.  Check out text of Genesis in tanakh, or the Hebrew bible. 

“Now here's where it gets interesting in terms of our Gertie.  She says careless water.  There's an ancient tradition in Judaism in the Talmud to argue whether God is cause of suffering, or is aware of it, and thinks it's beneficial to our soul's growth, or whether he is impartial observer, literally, above it all, i.e., could "care less."  I'm attaching a link that goes into that a little bit.”

Then Steiny got Xcited and found this:

Steiny had said during the study session that water imagery is considered female while fire imagery is considered male. Feeling perplexed, Steiny thought this put Gertrude in a strange place because her writing imagery seems to be mostly water and not fire. However, now with this Kabbalistic interpretation of there waters being male (and containing seeds), the contradiction resolves itself. But even so as Claudia Schumann pointed out—“GS is an Aquarius which is a masculine sign—not a surprise.  But, that sign is also the water bearer which would indicate that [someone under this sign] takes up residence with water.”


While “A Substance in a Cushion.” had words like season and string in common with “Cold Climate.”, Steiny’s attention went straight to “A Piece of Coffee.” as a touchstone for “Water Raining.” with the word astonish.

In COFFEE, we see this sentence:
“Supposing that there was no reason for a distress and more likely for a number, supposing that there was no astonishment, is it not necessary to mingle astonishment.”

In RAINING, we see this:
“Water astonishing and difficult altogether makes a meadow and a stroke.”

The verb astonish means to fill with sudden wonder or amazement. More interesting is that the root points to thunder:

[Alteration of Middle English astonen, from Old French estoner, from Vulgar Latin *extonāre : Latin ex-, ex- + Latin tonāre, to thunder; see (s)tenə- in Indo-European roots.]

In “Water Raining.”, we have a meadow and a stroke. As previously discussed, stroke might point to stroke of lightning and where there is lightning…thunder, no?

In “A Piece of Coffee.”, if there is no astonishment such as thunder, Stein wonders about mixing or connecting or mingling astonishment – perhaps putting the fireworks of lightning together with the wonder of thunder. So what Steiny sees in “Water Raining.” is if it rains and the rain is astonishing because of thunder and lightning then a low lying place like a meadow can be seen. Perhaps this is Stein talking about how to kindle the flame of love, which, golly gee, brings us back to fire.

Here is where Steiny praises her rubber boots and yellow slicker with hood. Then fades into the fog.

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