Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Stepping on Tender Buttons: “A Leave.", “Suppose An Eyes." Part 1 of 3


THE BOOK ..........................-           TENDER BUTTONS
THE SUBBOOK ...................-           OBJECTS
THE SUBPOEM ...................-          A LEAVE: NUMBER 52
WORD COUNT......................-           24
STANZA(S)............................-           1
THE SUBPOEM ...................-          SUPPOSE AN EYES: NUMBER 53
WORD COUNT......................-           107
STANZA(S)............................-           6
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.....................................-           HYPER ALERT

 “Grammar may not be counted.” from “Arthur A Grammar” Gertrude Stein

 “Stein is such a uniter of objects and ideas!!” Karren Alenier

“Space is a place that lets meaning emerge.” Peter Treanor


In the middle of a tiny spot and nearly bare there is a nice thing to say that wrist is leading. Wrist is leading.


Suppose it is within a gate which open is open at the hour of closing summer that is to say it is so.

All the seats are needing blackening. A white dress is in sign. A soldier a real soldier has a worn lace a worn lace of different sizes that is to say if he can read, if he can read he is a size to show shutting up twenty-four.

Go red go red, laugh white.

Suppose a collapse in rubbed purr, in rubbed purr get.

Little sales ladies little sales ladies little saddles of mutton.

Little sales of leather and such beautiful beautiful, beautiful beautiful.


As a Modernist, Stein works with elements of high and low culture as well as presenting these elements in a fragmented form. However, Stein also exhibits characteristics of the Postmodernist. While a Modernist uses form, purpose, design, hierarchy, the Postmodernist embraces something less identifiable as form (e.g. poetry written in a prose format), play versus purpose (writing that invents without a visible goal in mind), chance versus design (serendipity over structure), anarchy versus hierarchy (for Stein this looks like Chaos Theory). These Postmodern characteristics seem to point at what Stein is doing in Tender Buttons. However, it is hard to nail down Stein’s process and strategies because everything she writes is a moving target, moving because she wants to create the present moment. As it has been said before in these Steiny Road postings, what happens when a contemporary group of readers (e.g. The Buttons Collective) gets together to form impressions about an abstract work like Tender Buttons, is that anything goes with a reach backward and forward in time. So we Buttons construct a democratic bricolage of impressions.

Among the many associations made by the Buttons Collective in this discussion, either generally or specific to one of the two subpoems, are:

Sex and gaming: sexual release and romp, prostitution, parlor games (snooker, life pool, black pool),

Literature and language: the author critiques the critic, cows-leather-books, embodied book, printing, Blake, Dickinson, Leaves of Grass, bookended words, Stein’s poetic movement through gerunds, aubade, homophones, a new way of saying the making of suppositions (Suppose-n-ize),

Clothing, adornments and shopping: boot blacking, finding wearable art within Stein’s words (earrings, necklaces), eyelet fabric, soldier boots with lots of lace through the eyelets, a shopping frenzy, Lady Gaga’s meat dress

Social dictates: leave-taking, what is kosher (meat versus milk, Jewish orthodox permitted days of conjugal sex)

Higher powers: conducting, invoking the sacred power

Art: the sitting of an artist’s model, tree portrait, a gate decorated with eyes

Natural world: agates invoking lines and layers,

Mathematics: counting a variable number (n) of ayes


For the moment, the Steiny Road Poet sets asides the roadmap of associations that tended in this study session to bleed into each other in favor of exploring the titles of these two subpoems. Why? Because these titles stand out with their odd grammar—Stein suggests a breach regarding the rules of declension such that our English-speaking ears perk up, wondering about singular versus plural. Therefore, Steiny will provide a catalog of what The Buttons said about each title as an alternative way into this study session.


While Peter said this title could mean taking a leave as in saying good-bye, what captured his imagination was a sexual image:

A LEAVE becomes ALLEV IATE (all that pent up tension) 

the tiny spot, nearly bare, in the middle, a nice thing. And it's all in the wrist action apparently.”

Karren [a.k.a. Steiny] found a definition of a leave related to such games as pool, billiards, snooker, and croquet. She also wondered about the association of parlor games and sexual activity.

A leave (noun) the position of the balls after a shot.

Dave Green imagined a portrait of a tree, perhaps in fall:

“There's a tree that's bare except for one leaf (leave). The tree looks forlorn but the leaf itself is still a positive thing, a symbol of life, hanging on. Leaves are like the hands of the tree, so the stem is the wrist. The leading edge of the life of the tree is in that wrist. That wrist is also bleeding [(b)leading] as the leaf will shortly fall off and leave.”

What Dave wrote led to Peter parsing a leave into a complex association about words or a missing word that leads to seeing Stein instructing the reader how to use her words for greater appreciation of what she has written:

“Yes I was thinking A Leave as a leaf too
And it made me think of
Leaves of Grass
Leaves of a book
Leaves as words.
A leave as a word

“Sometimes I see these poems as little instruction manuals with the clue to operate them contained in the words themselves. So
In the middle of a tiny spot and nearly bare there is a nice thing to say that wrist is leading. Wrist is leading.
In the middle of tiny spot 
in the middle of tiny spot is a bare place, a blank _. But if you fill the blank with an E, you get tinyespot or tin yes pot. Yes is a nice thing to say.
Now why would you put the e in? I don’t know, but wrist/risk is leeeeading you to do it.”

Here, Steiny screeches to a halt to turn the Leaves of Grass, specifically
“I Sing the Body Electric” in this seminal poetry collection of Walt Whitman:

The expression of the face balks account;

But the expression of a well-made man appears not only in his face;

It is in his limbs and joints also, it is curiously in the joints of his hips and wrists;

It is in his walk, the carriage of his neck, the flex of his waist and knees—dress does not hide him;

The strong, sweet, supple quality he has, strikes through the cotton and flannel;
To see him pass conveys as much as the best poem, perhaps more;

You linger to see his back, and the back of his neck and shoulder-side.

What catches Steiny’s eye is the word wrist and how Whitman praises the body because for Whitman dress does not hide the man’s body and Whitman sees poetry in how this man moves. Steiny wonders if, in Whitman’s and Stein’s day, negative comments were thrown about concerning wrist movement of a gay man? In any case, Stein brings attention to the leading wrist with positive spin but like Peter notices there is still something hidden.

Eleanor Smagarinsky heard A Leave as A Love and wrote this interpretation/translation:

In the middle of a tiny spot In the very nucleus of my feeling, 
and nearly bare there deep there, it's hard to bear.
is a nice thing to say  Saying nice things will never capture what we share.
that wrist is leading. Many poets have claimed that their love was leading,
Wrist is leading. but my handwriting is only for your reading.

Pramila Venkateswaran found “A Leave.” to be an aubade:

I get a romantic vision of a bare spot  that is now filled with dancing couples--one partner leading anotherPerhaps the music is an Aubade (A Leave)--farewell song of parting between lovers.”


Taking a liberal amount of poetic license, Eleanor offered her reading that includes an artist’s model, a prostitute, and cancan dancers:

Suppose an eyes è Pose for eyes.

When a woman poses for a man, there are 4 eyes. Or if he's an artist, there will be many eyes looking at the work, that all started with the pose.”
Suppose it is within a gate which open is open at the hour of closing summer that is to say it is so.
“Eyes open, open and close. So does the prostitute pose for her customer, open and close. Does he want some of her?”
All the seats are needing blackening. A white dress is in sign. A soldier a real soldier has a worn lace a worn lace of different sizes that is to say if he can read, if he can read he is a size to show shutting up twenty-four.

Going very literal, Dave’s reading of the title envisions a shopping frenzy:

“Perhaps this is about a shopping frenzy? Being driven to acquire what your eyes see and want?
“The gate would be the door to the store.
Seats—not sure about this. The seats have been neglected because nobody sits around much, they are all busy shopping and selling?
A white dress is in sign—the store sells dresses
A soldier a real soldier...a homeless veteran outside the store, or someone working as a guard in the store?
Go red go red, laugh white—buy red lipstick but powder your face white?
a collapse in rubbed purr could be a customer wrapping herself in a fur coat, swooning at the luxurious feeling.
Little sales ladies—it's a store, so there are sales people; probably a swanky Parisian place, so the sales ladies are fashionably thin and small
little saddles of mutton—Stein takes a dim view of consumerism and selling? The sales ladies are just cogs in a  capitalist, male-owned machine?
beautiful beautiful, beautiful beautiful—maybe this is sarcastic, making fun of the empty compliments and marketing speak heard in the store.”

Karren heard Suppose 'n' Ayes where ‘n’ as in mathematics was a free variable not yet defined. She said this interpretation fed into a reading of the entire subpoem where Stein was making a supposition that if a number of critics liked her work than there would be sales of her book. [More on this later.] Suppose 'n' Ayes also fit well with an exchange between Eleanor and Peter where Eleanor noticed that the word eyes contains the word yes. This makes Steiny offer suppose any yes (Suppose ane yes), as a variant of Suppose 'n' Ayes.
And a couple more variations: Suppose ‘n’ Eyelets to go along with the possibility that a real soldier has a worn lace—as in a boot with 24 eyelets. Or suppose this is fabric known as eyelet.

Dave offered this neologism: Suppose an Eyes => Suppose-nize, i.e. the act of supposing or hypothesizing.

Stay tuned for the shocking Barrison Sisters who lift their skirts and show…what?, the connection of snooker and book bashing, and more.

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