Monday, April 21, 2014

Stepping on Tender Buttons: “Colored Hats.", “A Feather.", “A Brown."


THE BOOK ..........................-           TENDER BUTTONS
THE SUBBOOK ...................-           OBJECTS
THE SUBPOEM ...................-          COLORED HATS: NUMBER 43
WORD COUNT......................-           81
THE SUBPOEM ...................-          A FEATHER: NUMBER 44
WORD COUNT......................-           36
THE SUBPOEM ...................-          A BROWN: NUMBER 45
WORD COUNT......................-           21
STANZA(S)............................-           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.....................................-           DEVIL MAY CARE

Measuring, volumes, quantities run through these subpoems. Differences and change. Underneath the detail, a scientist at work?” Karren Alenier

 You can't have ‘pearl necklaces’ if you use those colorful hats!” Claudia Schumann


Colored hats are necessary to show that curls are worn by an addition of blank spaces, this makes the difference between single lines and broad stomachs, the least thing is lightening, the least thing means a little flower and a big delay a big delay that makes more nurses than little women really little women. So clean is a light that nearly all of it shows pearls and little ways. A large hat is tall and me and all custard whole.


A feather is trimmed, it is trimmed by the light and the bug and the post, it is trimmed by little leaning and by all sorts of mounted reserves and loud volumes. It is surely cohesive.


A brown which is not liquid not more so is relaxed and yet there is a change, a news is pressing.


Mary Armour said both in jest and unwavering seriousness that “along with clitoral pearls and labial little ways, something here speaks to ekphrasis and Gertrude's perception of Modernist art, the blank spaces and volumes, proportions and relational perspectives.”

The Steiny Road Poet sees that discussion of the blank spaces (“Colored Hats.”) began in “In Between. when Peter Treanor reflected on the separation of such words as “satin wood” and “foot path.” It led Karren [a.k.a. Steiny] to say, “I take this opening of space between certain words to be Stein protesting what she and Alice were not allowed to say in public—that they loved each other, that their love was a sacred trust.


Among the associations made with this set of subpoems together and separately were: insects—a brown butterfly, a brown recluse spider, lightening bugs; signs of spring; sexual practice, pregnancy, and birth control; undergarments, cunnilingus, virgins; Civil war nurses, military caps and insignias; Little Women by Louisa May Alcott; the abolitionist John Brown; knitting; Penelope and weaving; black hatters (the headwear of Jewish Orthodox men); and writing and printing. Here is a mix of some of the highlights of the discussion and some thoughts from Steiny:

from Peter on “Colored Hats.”:

“Tall hats, curls that are worn, single lines, broad stomachs, (en) lightening, pearls of wisdom and little ways make me think big hats and curls.”


Back in the 1950’s in America the word “colored” was a moniker applied to Black people in my not entirely assimilated Jewish community. So by that measure, Colored hats become Black hats, as in wide-brimmed felt hats with an exaggerated tall crowns worn by ultra-orthodox Jewish men who also wear side curls called payot

In Stein’s text, these hats and curls are accompanied by an addition of blank spaces, this makes the difference between single lines and broad stomachs. In defining Tzimtzum, Kabbalist Isaac Luria taught that God initiated creation by contracting his infinite light (making an empty/blank space) to allow for a conceptual space in which finite and spiritual could exist. Conceptually one might stretch the imagination here and say single lines could be the male sexual organ making the difference in a female to impregnate and cause a broad stomach (pregnancy).

Then in this passage: the least thing is lightening, the least thing means a little flower and a big delay a big delay that makes more nurses than little women, the inception of sperm (a flash of human chemical lightening) and egg flowers after a nine-month delay resulting in the female needing to nurse the child or children which might also be female and result in little women. So that clean light might indeed be God’s infinite light paving the way for the pearls of semen which create little children within the custard (a dish of milk and eggs) of the female orbit. Alternatively, lightening could also be (according to The Free Dictionary) “the sensation, experienced by many women late in pregnancy when the head of the fetus enters the pelvis, of a reduction in pressure on the diaphragm, making it easier to breathe.”

The large-brimmed hat with the tall crown contains an empty/blank space for the spiritual learning [(en)lightenment] that Jewish orthodox men acquire throughout their lives. Stein, who thought of herself as a male personae, might be saying this hat and what it represents may be how she thinks of herself (me) with all the observing, thinking, and writing she does.

Earlier in Tender Buttons, an association to Tzimtzum was made in the discussion of “Objects. but on a more cosmic and spiritual level. Here Stein brings us in balance with the cosmic and physical world.


More irreverently, Peter provided this image with the following gloss: “A coloured hat that curls on, and has an additional blank space (at the tip). It prevents broad stomachs (pregnancy) Can lead to a big delay by reducing sensitivity. It shows the pearls (you can look up pearl necklaces as a sexual act).”

More soberly, Peter added:

This bit intrigues me: A big delay a big delay that makes more nurses than little women really little women.”    

“The change in size, from big (delay) to little (women). Big making more than little~that make more than really.

“What is a big delay? An interruption? A long wait? A pause? A pregnant pause? A gestation period?

“Is nurses meaning nurses

“What kind of (least) thing means a little flower (A bud? A growing, opening bud, Fetus from the Latin meaning fruitful) and a big delay (or two big delays) would make more nurses? A war? An outbreak of illness? More children to be fed? Or more things to be held onto?

“And what are little women really little women? Why more nurses than little women? Is there something about being or becoming pregnant here? Broad stomachs, a big delay, more nursing than little women really?

“Am still thinking that the coloured hats are worn to prevent the least thing (a single sperm cell ) from making the difference between a single line (straight line, single/unmarried line) and a broad stomach and nursing a child.”


Since spring is typically a season of birth and renewal, Steiny will quickly gloss what speaks to spring in these three subpoems. “Colored Hats.” uses such words as lightening (more thunder storms with lightening occurs in spring and summer months), little flower (suggesting a newly growing plant), so clean is a light (spring is when the sun shines longer on a particular segment of the Earth).  “A Feather.” suggests birds and [a feather] trimmed by the light and the bug points at migration, possibly with mounted reserves (renewed food supply like bugs), spring migration. “A Brown.” suggests the earth where yet there is a change, possibly because of spring growth.


from Tamboura Gaskins:

“I have really enjoyed where we've gone with A Brown so far: mushy, life-filled, spring-time earth and sepia-colored ink [Peter associated “A Brown.” with ink in printing such things as newspapers and photographs].  These are such wonderful, dimensional images of the subpoem that have inspired me to look even closer--

A brown which is not liquid not more so is relaxed and yet there is a change, a news is pressing.
A brown ==> def’n (n.) “any of numerous mostly reddish-brown butterflies of the genera Maniola, Lasiommata, etc., such as M. jurtina (meadow brown): family Satyridae

A brown which is not liquid not more so is relaxed and yet there is a change, ==> this describes the metamorphosis of the butterfly, its life in a chrysalis—no longer a caterpillar and not yet a butterfly, but rather existing in a relaxed, constantly changing state
“a news is pressing. ==> and then it emerges as an adult—pressing against its outer shell, the newly-formed butterfly is born.”

from Claudia Schumann:

“I was thinking of the brown recluse spider - with a violin design on it's head, light brown color, only has 6 eyes instead of 8, that spins silk (no web) to hold its eggs. The silk reminds me of a string of pearls as it leaves the spider and it's sort of liquid-like but not liquid. Despite it's reputation, it looks rather delicate and it's only about 1/4-1/2 in size (a penny).”

from Eleanor Smagarinsky:

She just pointed to a nighttime photo of lightning bugs (also known as fireflies) flashing. However, “A Brown.” made her think this: 

“Can a collective, fertile imagination be called A Brown? I think so. It's a complete re-purposing of the color as a collective noun, and entirely our own word now. Stein as linguistic catalyst—not dictator, not owner.”

What Eleanor has done was take the lightening and light from “Colored Hats.”, the bug from “A Feather.”, and conceptual fertility with change, a news is pressing from “A Brown.” to arrive at a new name (A Brown) for a fertile imagination. It’s as if the lightning bug turned on a light in Eleanor’s head. And bravo to that, Steiny applauds, how neatly Eleanor’s thought fits with the conceptual space opened by the Tzimtzum association which only came to Steiny after she began organizing the discussion of this study session.


from Tamboura:

Getting back to love notes from GS to AT—


A feather is trimmed, it is trimmed by the light and the bug and the post, it is trimmed by little leaning and by all sorts of mounted reserves and loud volumes. It is surely cohesive.
"A FEATHER. ==> def’n (n.) kind; character; nature: two boys of the same feather
"In this sub-poem, I believe that Gertrude is expressing her belief that she and Alice are birds of a feather, who belong together— 
"A feather ==> a feat∙her ==> a feat, her ==> Gertrude’s conquest of Alice.
"A feather  ==> abbreviated from birds of a feather, def’n (idiom) 'people of the same type, character, or interests.'
"trimmed ==> def’n. (n.) a person's dress, adornment, or appearance ==> def’n (n.) material used for decoration or embellishment.
"A feather is trimmed, ==> GS is attempting to describe the nuances of her conquest of Alice; she says that this feat comes with many adornments. 
"light ==> derived from the idiom 'in a good light,' or under favorable circumstances.
"bug ==> def’n (n.) 'a craze or obsession.'
"post ==> def’n (n.) 'a position of duty, employment, or trust to which one is assigned or appointed.'
"it is trimmed by the light and the bug and the post, ==> the feat has been embellished by the favorable circumstances that brought them together, GS’s own dogged obsession to win Alice over, and her sense of duty, perhaps to guide and care for Alice.
leaning ==> derived from the verb phrase “to lean in,” def’n “to embrace risk, be assertive” ==> derived from the verb phrase “to lean on,” def’n “to exert influence or pressure on in order to gain cooperation.”
"it is trimmed by little leaning ==> the feat was made possible by GS pressuring Alice into the relationship and also by a little assertive risk-taking. 
"mounted ==> def’n (adj.) 'provided with a support, backing, etc.' ==> derived from mount, or 'to climb onto for copulation.'
"reserves ==> def’n (n.) 'cash, or assets readily convertible into cash, held aside, as by a corporation, bank, state or national government, etc., to meet expected or unexpected demands” ==> def’n (n.) “something kept or stored for use or need; stock.'
"loud volumes ==> derived from the idiom 'to speak volumes,'  def’n (idiom):  'a. to be very evident or significant, b. to be expressive or meaningful, and c. to convey much significant information.'
"and by all sorts of mounted reserves and loud volumes. ==> it seems the feat was also made possible by monetary reserves or savings as well as perhaps some supportive, reserved and out-spoken individuals.
"cohesive ==> def’n (adj.) 'tending to cohere or stick together.'
"It is surely cohesive. ==> GS believes that the feat, her, will be everlasting."

from Peter:

“This seems like a quill again. A feather trimmed by a blade to become a quill. Mounting the paper, loud, writing volumes. It binds people and ideas. The quill writing the Torah again?”


from Dave Green:

"A Brown" = John Brown the abolitionist who helped start the Civil War?”

from Peter:

“Little women, nursing, Civil War—coloured caps & curly sleeve badges, and John Brown (a mouldering) who would have thought it!”


from Tamboura:

“All this talk of war and little women makes me think of Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women [published 1868-1869]. During the story, there were lean times for the girls whose broad stomachs, distended due to hunger, were sometimes lightened by the least little morsel of food.  The father was away at war, marching in single lines, for a long enough time for his girls, his little women, to become little nurses, nursing sick neighbor children as well as one of their own.” 


from Tamboura:

"Colored Hats has a lot of images that are reminiscent of knitting and knitting charts— …curls are worn by an addition of blank spaces, ==> this describes a type of lace knitting: a knit one through the back loop is often represented by a curl symbol in the chart while the knit stitch is often represented by a blank space in the chart.

"this makes the difference between single lines and broad stomachs, ==> the curls and blank spaces build line by line until there is enough knitting to cover the broad area around a stomach.

"the least thing is lightening, ==> as knitting goes, a series of small yarn-overs create a lightweight lace pattern.
"So clean is a light that nearly all of it shows pearls and little ways. ==> the opposite of a knit stich is a purl stitch, and in good light one can distinguish between a knit and a purl stitch by looking at the little ways, i.e. the little v’s and dashes, respectively, in the knitting."


The final gesture, Steiny leaves to Peter who was still quite conflicted about the custard whole in “Colored Hats.” He said, “Don’t know about the custard though. General Custard [George Armstrong Custer who lost at the Little Bighorn, 1876, against the Sioux?], egg custard, custard tart or custard pie or cussed hard and whole or cake hole.”

No comments: