Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Stepping on Tender Buttons: “A Dog.", “A White Hunter." Part 3 of 3


THE BOOK ..........................-           TENDER BUTTONS
THE SUBBOOK ...................-           OBJECTS
THE SUBPOEM ...................-          A DOG: NUMBER 50
WORD COUNT......................-           30
THE SUBPOEM ...................-          A WHITE HUNTER: NUMBER 51
WORD COUNT......................-           6
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.....................................-           JAUNTY BUT CRAZED

“Whistle for your dog and find your weapon of choice.” Karren Alenier


A little monkey goes like a donkey that means to say that means to say that more sighs last goes. Leave with it. A little monkey goes like a donkey.


A white hunter is nearly crazy.

In part 3 of Stepping on Tender Buttons: “A Dog.", “A White Hunter.", The Buttons explore fencing as a Steinian approach to writing, the lesbian code of keys, the musical key of a Steinian text, how a pageboy from Shakespeare elicited discussion of the blank page,  Again, note that some of this conversation can be heard in Eleanor Smagarinsky’s sound file “Dog and Hunter Overture.”


Liking Peter Treanor’s riff on A Dog è Goad [end of Stepping on Tender Buttons: “A Dog.", “A White Hunter." Part 2 of 3], Eleanor answered:

    A spiked stick used for driving cattle.
    A thing that stimulates someone into action:
And Karren said in her introduction to this thread:
‘find your weapon of choice.’

“OK, this is fun...let's see....

"to say that means to say
‘touché that means to say’
“touché—Used to acknowledge a hit in fencing or the success or appropriateness of an argument, an accusation, or a witty point.
“From the "Glossary of fencing":
An offensive movement resembling an attack in all but its continuance. It is an attack into one line with the intention of switching to another line before the attack is completed. A feint is intended to draw a reaction from an opponent. This is the ‘intention’, and the reaction is generally a parry, which can then be deceived.

“Sums up exactly my experience with reading Tender Buttons. So many keys, none of them properly labelled. And the huge ego of Stein, hurting my own considerable ego as she goads me into thinking I ‘get it’ and then proving that I don't. And I keep coming back for another round.”

Allan Keeton:

It is an attack into one line with the intention of switching to another line before the attack is completed.
A feint is intended to draw a reaction from an opponent.
This is the ‘intention’, and the reaction is generally a parry, which can then be deceived.

“O it does seem that Stein feints her lines all the time.

“She switches lines before completing the given line.
This is her line of attack.
It is fluid.
It is her intent.
To draw a reaction from the reader.
A bold move that only appears faint if one 
expects to read a line to completion.”


 “Allan, That fainting feint is how Stein makes a mater-peace as opposed to a master-piece.”

Within 24 hours, Eleanor had additional thoughts about keys:

“Pete, regarding the keys you you reckon Stein's playing on the French mon and ton?
MON KEY - my key
TON KEY - your key
That's what G & A have in common? Not only sexually, but also linguistically....after all...if these poems are coded love notes from G to A then they'd both have to know what the key was, to break the code. Non?

Leave with it—you should always make sure that you have your keys before you leave the house. I mean, this really could be as simple as that -- a funny coded message written the day after Alice forgets her keys (when they leave the house to walk the dog?), and they're locked out. A rhyme to remember your keys. Delightful.”



“I love it Eleanor that you found the mon-(d)ton keys in this sexually charged set of anima-(ls)-ani-mus.
“I'm thinking keys could be kisses.”


“Karren, kisses!! I just remembered—in Swedish you often find people say or write ‘pus pus / puss puss’ at the end of a conversation, it means ‘kiss kiss’! It took my by surprise when a Swedish friend used it for the first time ;-) [pusspuss glances back to “Shoes.” and the line It is pus that might indeed be code for Pussyone of Gertrude’s terms of endearment for her partner Alice.]


The keys discussion elicited this from Claudia Schumann:

“Could the keys relate to music keys? Maybe it's a code for different musical pieces.  A little monkey goes like a donkey. 

“If you change the key of a piece (monkey) it will sound different (go like a donkey).”


“Claudia! Musical keys!!! So much to think about now.....the sound of a piano, the tuning of an instrument, the composition of a poem, the musicality of the text. Can poems be written in different keys?!! I love that idea.”


“Right, Claudia!

“mon key:  The key of G 
don key:   The key of A

So Alice must be Don Qui-xote.

“Following the scent of the Don who (qui) xote.
The dog wondered just what xote was.
It turns out to be a Brazilian musical
genre and dance for pairs or for foursomes
                                                  (the donkey goes on fours)

“I am sure that it can be played in
the key of G or in the key of A.
Maybe there can be a change of key
from G to A
or A to G.”


“OK, Allan,  
your lines,
your lines of
reasoning are
Xquisitely pleasing 

“So Alice must be Don Qui-xote.
Following the scent of the Don who (qui-key) xote.”



“A line from A Midsummer Nights Dream [toward end of Stepping on Tender Buttons: “A Dog.", “A White Hunter." Part 2 of 3] struck me -
‘I’ll make her render up her page to me.’

“A page, white, blank and pure. The writer, reader and first time lover could all be seen as hunters (hunters of white, white hunters) wanting to make the first mark on the white page. Something about pursuit and desire making people crazy. But not sure if its good crazy or bad crazy.”


“Concerning the page...well.....the bad news is that Oberon's referring to Titania's pageboy, the good news is that it's still relevant to ‘something about pursuit and desire making people crazy. But not sure if it’s good crazy or bad crazy’ because Oberon is super-jealous of the pageboy, as Titania showers him (and not Oberon) with affection. Another possible interpretation of the pageboy obsession, is that Titania was ‘very close’ to the pageboy's mother (who died and left the boy under Titania's care), so there's that to be jealous about too.

“It's interesting that GS writes ‘nearly crazy,’ and I'm also undecided as to how good-crazy or bad-crazy this ‘crazy’ is. Furthermore, the ‘nearly’ gives me no end of grief...I can you be ‘nearly’ crazy? Where do you draw the line? Perhaps GS is making a profound comment here on the difficulty in defining a relationship, particularly a love relationship. Are you a lover or a hunter? Are you conquering? Colonising? Are you on your way to gaining all you love, or killing it off? 


“Drat that pesky pageboy, I thought it was one of William's lusty euphemisms ‘I'll have her page.’ I quite like it as a euphemism though.”


“It's a brilliant euphemism, simply brilliant.”

A page, white , blank and pure. The writer, reader and first time lover could all be seen as hunters ( hunters of white , white hunters) wanting to make the first mark on the white page. [Peter Treanor]

“Can't you just see the lover/poet...hovering over that pristine page with her (making it her not him, more potent I reckon ;-) fountain pen, the sharp nib, the ink at the tip about drop and make its mark. You could write any number of words, make your handwriting slant, tip over, dot your i’s, cross your t’s. Draw the line (when you disagree), underline (when passionate), doodle (just for fun). Would you use both sides of the page? Sometimes you run out of space on a page, and you think you need a new one— start over with a clean slate. Or maybe the page changes with age, yellowing, fraying at the edges, and there are reams and reams of crisp, new pages out there...what to do?”

[Here Peter pointed to some clips from the film Pillow Book which features the human body as the page for the written word. This, and the commentary that follows, puts us back in touch with Stepping on Tender Buttons: “A Dog.", “A White Hunter." Part 1 of 3.]



“Seeing as everyone's agreed (am I right?) that these button poems are (among other numerous things) love notes from G to A, then—well...strictly speaking, they're entries in a ‘Journal of Marriage.’ Now...please forgive me for seeming to be cynical, but a ‘marriage journal’ is quite different from a ‘love note’ may contain love notes, but it's much more complex than that.

“My next thought (I'm thinking as I write here) is that marriage is marriage, whatever your sexual inclination, and so it would be far too simplistic to call this book of poems a ‘journal of lesbian marriage,’ although it is that of course, but it's also much more.

“Are these poems fiction or non-fiction? (that's a rhetorical question). Can we learn about A & G's relationship from these poems? Yes, but also...not really. First of all, Alice is the recipient, the passive reader. Secondly, it's in ‘code,’ as all marriages are! 

“The reason I'm thinking of this, is that I'm following a Coursera course on ‘Marriage in the Movies,’ and the professor lists 7 ‘cinematic marriage problems’ as follows:


“Now...I reckon we've had almost all of them pop up in ‘OBJECTS’ [section 1 of Tender Buttons] so far, and now we even have this turn to violence, what with the nearly crazy hunter. Just first thoughts here, but I thought it interesting enough to pop into a commentbox...... more sighs last goes.”



This seems to be the melancholic's alternative to 

he who laughs last
laughs best

In which case

the dog is sanguine
the monkey is choleric
the donkey is phlegmatic

[Allan is referring to an ancient theory about personality types called the four temperaments.]


“and the white hunter is melancholic,  it's his quiet self-analysis that has driven him a little crazy.”


Karren [a.k.a. Steiny] complimented Allan and Peter for their analysis which points back to Gertrude Stein’s character typing that she called Bottom Nature. Stein used this concept in writing her long novel The Making of Americans that preceded (as a written work but not as published work) Tender Buttons. 

Steiny thanks you, Dear Reader, for risking the dizzying tour through the three-part discussion of “A Dog." and “A White Hunter.". She also tips her hat to The Buttons Collective for a labyrinthian journey through these 41 words and especially to Eleanor Smagarinsky for making visceral that the proceedings of the ModPo Tender Buttons Massive Open Online Study Group is without a doubt a virtual opera.

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