Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Stepping on Tender Buttons: “A Leave.", “Suppose An Eyes." Part 2 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

“What is the object of Gertrude Stein’s game?” Karren Alenier

“Instantly, this entire poem now morphed into a very highly charged sex romp, open for business, 24/7, shoe-shining, butt-waxing, soldiering, lacy undergarments.” Eleanor Smagarinsky

Now Steiny offers the low-culture highlights from the associations made by The Buttons Collective in Stepping on Tender Buttons: “A Leave.", “Suppose An Eyes." Part 1 of 3, starting with the category sex and gaming but blending in other topics, including the politics of publishing.


While Peter had found the sexual tension of “A Leave.” and how to release it and Karren called attention to the connection between parlor games and sex, Allan Keeton jumped in referencing a phrase from “Suppose An Eyes.”, followed by a definition of pussy taken from a website with The Etymology of Slang Sexual Terms:

“with rubbed purr as rubbed her (& made her purr)”

However, he didn’t stop there but also discovered the Barrison Sisters a vaudeville act performing in the United States and Europe from about 1891 to 1900 which featured a dance where they played the audience by asking if they wanted to see [the sisters’] pussy. Upon raising her skirt, each sister revealed a live kitten secured in her undergarment over the crotch.
Allan also added a sexually suggestive image to match Stein’s:

Then there are the sales ladies
& their saddles of mutton.

Eleanor said she was reminded of Lady Gaga’s meat dress.

“Just taking the line by itself:
Little sales ladies little sales ladies little saddles of mutton.  
“I'm tempted to give it a feminist reading, but I can't read the Stein appreciating the selling of the cuts of meat? Is she buying and consuming?
Little sales of leather and such beautiful beautiful, beautiful beautiful.
“It's creepy. She practically has blood dripping down her face, no? So then I work myself back up the poem as there's a lot of rubbing and purring and then one line up we have:
Go red go red, laugh white.
“Instantly, this entire poem now morphed into a very highly charged sex romp, open for business, 24/7, shoe-shining, butt-waxing, soldiering, lacy undergarments.”


Karren replied:

“After having sat with USDA meat inspectors and hearing them talk about the horrors of the meat packing industry, I practically gagged on eating meat for a week and now seeing Gaga in her meat dress…yuk. But somehow none of this quite changes my habits. Even the image Allan has posted above which is mightily unappetizing. Well, it's also rather sexual looking, maybe like the private parts of a woman.

“This makes me think that maybe underneath of ‘Suppose An Eyes.’ might there be some discussion of what is kosher? If you think of the meat being in the black (or blackening) category and the dairy/milk being in the white category... 

“That business about the soldier and his worn lace makes me think of his shoes where maybe a cat is purring about his feet for some milk? Is Stein the soldier and Toklas the cat (Pussy)?

“The red referring, as Eleanor put it, to bloody meat. The laughing cow, white—milk. 

“AND are women who produce milk kosher? Yes, but not when they bleed. They are off-limits to their husbands when they menstruate and considered unclean.”


“Yes, the line—

 Little sales ladies little sales ladies little saddles of mutton.

“could be read as prostitution,
especially juxtaposed with that picture of a saddle of mutton.

“Lack of menstrual blood means soon there will be milk.”



“Red usually means stop, which is the opposite of go.

“Until now I didn't see the read in red

“Karren—you mentioned parlour games earlier in thread, and so now I'm thinking of snooker. I googled it, and it seems to me that the balls are all Stein's colours.”


[Mass Noun]
A game played with cues on a billiard table in which the players use a cue ball (white) to pocket the other balls (fifteen red and six coloured) in a set order: [as modifier]: a snooker hall, a snooker tournament.

More Example Sentences:
[Count Noun] A position in a game of snooker or pool in which a player cannot make a direct shot at any permitted ball: He needed a snooker to have a chance of winning the frame.

More Example Sentences:
Verb [with object]
Subject (oneself or one’s opponent) to a snooker: He potted yellow and green, and then snookered Davis on the brown. Hendry led, but then snookered himself.

British Leave (someone) in a difficult position; thwart:
I managed to lose my flat keys—that was me snookered.

US Trick, entice, or trap:
They were snookered into buying books at prices that were too high.

    British Leave (someone) in a difficult position; thwart:
    US Trick, entice, or trap:

“This is exactly the game Stein is playing with us!”

Eleanor provided an image of a snooker cue:


Her weapon consists of a butt cap, a butt, a shaft collar and a shaft, very masculine, very GS, I think she chose it carefully and deliberately. 

“She uses red a lot, lots of red balls in snooker—I wonder how many reds she pots?

“I wonder if the number of times she uses the other colours corresponds to their point value in the game? yellow (2 points), green (3), brown (4), blue (5), pink (6) and black (7) Or if she  alternates red with other colours as in the game.

“She talks of tables a lot, is this the snooker table?
And it's played with a cue (or cues if there are two playing), a hint or indication!”


Ha, all those points make up a system to pointing.” [see “A carafe, That Is a Blind Glass.”]


Here is text from restoring a snooker cue. There is a lot of talk about bringing back the black details and reducing the white. Apparently these parlor games are taken very seriously and the care of their cues seem rather sexual.”

I am sure a lot of you have accidentally sanded down your ash shaft to the point of losing all the grain fillers. The shaft looks "white" and no matter how many times you oil your shaft the grains are never dark enough again.

You may have also come across this situation with some very old cues whereas the dark grain fillers are missing in some areas leaving behind some dents and broken spots along the grains on the shaft.

Aurora ash grain sealer not only fills your ash grains and darkens them, it also seals the open pores and protects your shaft against moisture.

Some people use shoe polish, ebony dust, wood filler, black wood stain, ink...etc. but these products will come off over time and do not necessarily offer protection against humidity.



“I looked up the history of snooker [Wikipedia] and see LIFE POOL and BLACK POOL as a precursor.”

Life pool was a form of pocket billiards (pool) mainly played in the 19th century. It was one of several pool games that were popular at this time (so called because gamblers pooled their bets at the start of play). The object of the game was to be the last player left "alive" and therefore scoop the pool (take the winnings). Each player had three "lives" to begin with and would lose one when another player potted their coloured ball which was designated to them at the start of the game. Once a player lost their three lives, they were declared "dead", i.e. out of the game. The game continued in this way until there was only one player left, who was declared the winner. Around 1875, life pool merged with black pool to form the new game of snooker, today one of the most popular cue sports in the world.

Black pool was a form of pocket billiards (pool) mainly played in the 19th century. It was one of several pool games that were popular during this time. It was called this because gamblers pooled their bets at the start of play. This game had fifteen red balls that were racked in a triangle, as in snooker today but without the six colour balls. There was also a black ball that was either placed on the centre spot or what is now the black spot in snooker. Each player extracted winnings from their opponents for each ball they potted. Potting the black ball meant receiving additional winnings. Around 1875, black pool was merged with life pool to form the new game of snooker, today one of the most popular cue sports in the world.

“What interests me is thinking about THE OBJECT of the game. How was Stein playing with object of the game?

“Next, Three Lives is all you get to win at Life Pool. Stein's first published book (albeit self-published) was Three Lives (1909). Leo Stein suggested to Gertrude that she attempt translation of Flaubert's Trois Contes (Three Tales) to improve her French. Well, she rolled her own, but she did admire Flaubert's stories and there are nods to them like a parrot in her story The Good Anna.

“She sent her book to various well known writers including William James, her Harvard professor (also Leo's teacher before Gertrude) and he said it was ‘a fine new kind of realism.’ The book was not a literary success but it was talked about in lit circles. Writer Israel Zangwill wrote, ‘... I always thought [Stein] was such a healthy minded young woman, what a terrible blow this must be for her poor dear brother.’"


So Karren thought it over some more and came back with:

“What occurs to me after thinking about the Life Pool- three lives-snooker is that Tender Buttons snookers the traditional writers. These writers, and especially her critics, have no idea what she is doing.

“Here is how Stein this sets up:

“Now remembering that Tender Buttons was published May 1914 and the "Objects" section was written last:

Suppose it Tender Buttons is within a gate the arena of public criticism
which open is open at the hour of closing summer Stein's publisher had to rush the publication process to get the new book to the critics before they won't on summer holidays
that is to say it is so. What the critics said mattered to the success of the book.

“The rest of this subpoem can be read-through as Stein deriding the old ways of the book business. Look at those end lines, here's what I see:

Suppose a collapse in rubbed purr, in rubbed purr get.
purr get ==> Purgeth

Purgeth means,

To Cleanse: specifically, to prune.

In the garden, 'pruning' is a very important activity.  

There are several reasons for 

pruning, such as to: correct or repair 

damage; shape; train; encourage flower and 

fruit production; create a pleasing form; 

bring roots and leaves into balance; 

thin out dense growth to let in light

and air; etc.  Our Father, the

Master Gardener, knows just 

how, and when, all of 

His 'branches' 



The Christian take on Purgeth is:
I am the true Vine, 

and my Father is the husbandman.

Every branch in me that beareth not fruit 

He taketh away: 

and every branch that beareth fruit, 

He purgeth it, 

that it may bring forth more fruit. 

John 15:1-2   

“So here is Stein setting up a what-if statement—suppose praise (rubbed purr) is rubbed out (purged)?
Little sales ladies little sales ladies little saddles of mutton.
“Then those sheepishly sales ladies who are ridden by the ruling white males of the literary world (white hun(t)-hers) can
Little sales of leather and such beautiful beautiful, beautiful beautiful.
“make their sales of other books bound in leather that appeal to the senses and are excellent beyond compare.  And perhaps these are the little known books like Stein's Tender Buttons.”



“I never thought about leather being the cover of a book, until now. You open and close a book, and ‘he can read, he can read’ now sounds ironic. Reading GS makes people see red, or blush.”


“EL, I think it is historically interesting that Stein has singled out a soldier to be her reader. This warrior of the page—Stein—chooses soldiers as her readers and those are the readers she wants to impress so much that they are silenced or shamed or maybe even angry  (blushing or bursting red faced).

“Also now I'm thinking that leather is tied not only to books but back to cow! if the cow also represents something sexual or something conceptual… See where I'm going with this? Stein is such a uniter of objects and ideas!!”

Once again Steiny is going to pause to quote Walt Whitman’s poem “I sing the body electric.”

I SING the Body electric;

The armies of those I love engirth me, and I engirth them;

They will not let me off till I go with them, respond to them,

And discorrupt them, and charge them full with the charge of the Soul.

This time Steiny quotes Whitman to show his use of the word armies which in the context of his poem refers to groups of people Whitman is celebrating. Stein also does not seem to be using the word soldier in the sense of military or war but as body of consequence.



“The marbling of leather on book covers reminds me of the marbling of meat. 


“Perhaps black letters "blacken" the pristine white of the page - "signs" on a white dress. An ADDRESS to the reading public.

“I read that she was very specific in her requirements for the page colour and print of her children's book ‘The World Is Round,’ and I imagine she would be absolutely pedantic about the design of books, generally. The physicality of the book is something that's suddenly popped up here, perhaps, in parallel to the themes that she tackles in the writing itself. And now I see that we have ‘Book.’ still to come, interesting that there is no ‘A’ in front of it.”


“El, think of black letters blackening the pristine white page.

And look at the definition of 'seat' where I have bolded (blackened).

This makes letters (that which is blackened on the white page) the seat of power!

seat  (sēt)
1. Something, such as a chair or bench, that may be sat on.
a. A place in which one may sit.
b. The right to occupy such a place or a ticket indicating this right: got seats for the concert.
3. The part on which one rests in sitting: a bicycle seat.
a. The buttocks.
b. The part of a garment that covers the buttocks.
a. A part serving as the base of something else.
b. The surface or part on which another part sits or rests.
a. The place where something is located or based: The heart is the seat of the emotions.
b. A center of authority; a capital: the county seat. See Synonyms at center.
7. A place of abode or residence, especially a large house that is part of an estate: the squire's country seat.
8. Membership in an organization, such as a legislative body or stock exchange, that is obtained by appointment, election, or purchase.
9. The manner of sitting on a horse: a fox hunter with a good seat


“I thought that perhaps blackening was some sort of protectant coating, like whitewashing, but I could not find a reference.

“Blackening is an alchemical process (the nigredo)
in which the substance ferments and suffers a
necessary and painful death as a precursor to
rebirth as the philosopher's stone.

“Why the seats would need this, 
I do not know.

“But blackening brings up whitewashing & its attendant coverups.
In America black & white 
always connotes race.

“Black seats & white dresses.”

Claudia Schumann:

All the seats are needing blackening. 

“To me it sounds like maybe the seats are leather and like shoes they need polishing. So in the old days if you wanted to polish your shoes you would use shoe polish which was the color of the shoes.  I have this phrase in my mind boot blacking which means to shine shoes.”

Steiny quietly closes the gate on the sensational sex and politics of Stein’s world of publishing though even in the mostly high cultural last segment of this tri-part post these topics will appear. Now on to Tender Buttons evoking the poetry of William Blake, Emily Dickinson, and Susan Howe.

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