Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Stepping on Tender Buttons: “A Leave.", “Suppose An Eyes." Part 3 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 does not need a balustrade to be broken” from “Arthur A Grammar” Gertrude Stein

Have we been impaled by the rouge use of language?” Peter Treanor

“There's that fencing feint with a leading wrist.” Allan Keeton

And finally here are the high culture associations made by The Buttons Collective as noted in Stepping on Tender Buttons: “A Leave.", “Suppose An Eyes." Part 1 of 3, As you will note, Dear Reader, popular culture (i.e. low culture) mixes in here as well.



“I love the embodied book becoming present here.

“The white being blackened with text.
Not just any text this-

“The pages being seated in the binding and bound.
This binding is covered with leather, which is cow skin,
as we are bound in skin.

“It reminds me of Blake:”

Energy is the only life and is from the Body and Reason is the bound or outward circumference of Energy.

“The beautiful made beautiful.”

beautiful beautiful,
beautiful beautiful.

“Such fullnessess of beatitudes.”

Eleanor Smagarinsky:

“Allan, I googled that line from Blake (I am terribly ignorant, having never read him) and found that it comes from the book Marriage of Heaven & Hell. Wiki says this:”

Blake's text has been interpreted in many ways. It certainly forms part of the revolutionary culture of the period. The references to the printing-house suggest the underground radical printers producing revolutionary pamphlets at the time. Ink-blackened printworkers were comically referred to as a "printer's devil", and revolutionary publications were regularly denounced from the pulpits as the work of the devil.

“So the blackening is what really happened as the books were printed. Beautiful Beautiful.”

Dave Green responded to the quotation from Blake by quoting Emily Dickinson:

Energy is the only life and is from the Body and Reason is the bound or outward circumference of Energy. [William Blake]
Circumference in a poem immediately makes me think of Emily Dickinson, for whom it was a key word:
I saw no Way—The Heavens were stitched—
I felt the Columns close—
The Earth reversed her Hemispheres—
I touched the Universe—
And back it slid—and I alone—
A Speck upon a Ball—
Went out upon Circumference
Beyond the Dip of Bell—

The Poets light but Lamps—
Themselves—go out—
The Wicks they stimulate—
If vital Light
Inhere as do the Suns—
Each Age a Lens
Disseminating their

Letter written by Emily Dickinson, to Thomas Wentworth Higginson (July 1862):
...My business is circumference. An ignorance,
not of customs, but if caught with the dawn, or the sunset see me, myself the only kangaroo among
the beauty, sir, if you please, it afflicts me, and I thought that instruction would take it away.

Eleanor advanced the literary touchstones by bringing contemporary poet Susan Howe into this exchange:

: the length of a line that goes around something or that makes a circle or other round shape
: the outer edge of a shape or area

“This is so interesting, as Stein seems to be doing a lot of maneuvering in her language during the last few poems—streaming, pounding, making, shining, going, sighing, leaving, hunting, saying, leading, supposing, opening, closing, needing, blackening, signing, wearing, reading, shutting, going, collapsing, purring, rubbing, selling.

“If you were to somehow chart all of her movements as dots on a map, and then step away from it and get a bigger picture by joining the dots, it may well look like the circumference of her textual world. Seeing the pattern in this (I'm talking theoretically, I do not believe one over-arching pattern exists other than in her very DNA) is our attempt (we are only human!) to see reason/the rational in chaos:

“Blake (thanks, Allan) - Reason is the bound or outward circumference of Energy.
“Dickinson (thanks, Dave) - I thought that instruction would take it away

“Now, Susan Howe discusses Dickinson & Stein together in her book, and she uses this phrase:
‘space of time filled with moving.’ 
which I think is apt for our conversation.
Also quite beautiful to see the movements of Dickinson in her own poems:
Went out 

go out
[What a contrast!]

Here Steiny pauses to quote Robert Pinsky who said of this poem that Dickinson “seems to say that each age widens or disseminates the light of a poem in a different way.” Surely this kind of Dickinsonian dimensionality is what modernist high and low culture, fractured commentary mixed with unstructured, anything-goes postmodern chat that is all part of how The Buttons Collective operates in studying Tender Buttons. Also Eleanor’s commentary speaks to Chaos Theory and how Stein’s verb use insisting on immediacy (newness) keeps us as readers from nailing down absolutes.


“I love Eleanor's charting of poetic movement.

“So much gerunding.

ger·und  (jĕr′ənd)
1. In Latin, a noun derived from a verb and having all case forms except the nominative.
2. In other languages, a verbal noun analogous to the Latin gerund, such as the English form ending in -ing when used as a noun, as in singing in: We admired the choir's singing.

“So much verbal nouning.

“So much movement created by
of things.

Then Allan remarked about Dickinson’s reversal of hemispheres to which Dave responded:

“Yes, Allan, two great Emily poems.
“In 378 she is talking about a tiny human being confronting the enormity of the universe, of space and time. She summons the courage to touch it and go out on its circumference.
“And how exactly does she go out on its circumference? By, as described in 883, thinking and feeling deeply about her place in the universe and recording those thoughts and feelings in poems, which can go on to live indefinitely and influence future ages and places far from their birthplace. Thus can a tiny human extend their reach to universal scale.
“And then there's this: ‘the only kangaroo among the beauty’—what a fantastic line. How can you not love the woman who wrote that?”


The end words of “Suppose An Eyes.”— beautiful beautiful, beautiful beautiful—in combination with what Peter had said about finding instructions within Tender Buttons for how to read Stein’s poem set Eleanor on a hunt of doubled or side-by-side words within the overall long poem. She found this list:
out out
pieces pieces
cut cut
guided guided
more, more
within, within
lean, lean
count, count
hollow hollow
beside beside
breed, breed
green, green
many many
black, black
whow, whow
muncher, muncher munchers

Then she commented:

“Righty-o then. Not that few really, and that I've transcribed them, very telling. Indeed. No doubt Freud might have something to say about why I didn't see these. Moving right along....

“So I thought that there didn't seem to be that many pure doubles and thus decided to look for doubles with only ONE word between them—suddenly all of the ‘a’s (which are words) seemed to stand as brackets around each word, and so I collected them. I also collected phrases like:
nothing flat nothing
to see to see to (my personal favourite)
But I just quickly collected the ‘a’ phrases to see what would happen.” [that list looks like the following:]

a cousin, a
a difference a
a closet, a closet
A charm a
a loss a
A plan a
A dark grey, a
a spectacle, a spectacle
a use a
A virgin a
a change, a
a stamp, a
a blanket, a
a revision a revision
a stand, a stand
a damper a
A soldier a
a sizer a sizer
a cleaner, a
a bank, a bank
a sister and sister and
{Aider, why aider why
aider whow, aider.}

Eleanor continued:

“Inspired by your comment, I took for my instruction manual the phrase more of double from ‘A PIECE OF COFFEE.’ and a regular arrangement from ‘A CHAIR.’ Also, in retrospect, I'm getting a kick out of the phrase from ‘A SUBSTANCE IN A CUSHION.’—the best thing to do is to take it away and wear it.

“Those ‘a’ phrases make quite lovely beaded earrings if you turn them around.”

From this work, an extended exchange between Eleanor and Peter evolved which nicely sums up with their last two comments:

*deep breath*
Firstly - a shameless attempt at coaxing master crafter Tamboura [Gaskins] to join the conversation:
Tambour beading. [This pertains to making jewelry out of Stein’s strings of words.]

“Secondly - Ron Silliman said about Stein that he'd love for her poetry to, one day, be set as a challenge for "Project Runway". Brilliant. [Silliman brought up Project Runway in his guest appearance as a panelist October 2013 during the live webcast that inspired Steiny to initiate this Tender Buttons study.]

“Thirdly—Surely some PhD student somewhere in the world has created a lexicon of Stein's word usage, patterns etc.?!! When I studied Biblical poetry, we had our ‘Gesenius,’ which I still have (I can't bear to part with it) but which is now, I see, online:
Click on a blue letter on the left and then click on the word you're looking for, Gesenius tells you exactly how many times and where versions of that word appear in the Old Testament. Pete, this reminds me of what you said about the method of translating hieroglyphs [see “Stepping on Tender Buttons: “Dog.”, “A White Hunter.” Part 1 of 3]—what we were doing with Gesenius was finding how the word is used elsewhere in the same text, so as to find a more accurate meaning. This would apply, to a certain extent, to Stein as well.


what we were doing with Gesenius was finding how the word is used elsewhere in the same text, so as to find a more accurate meaning. [Eleanor Smagarinsky]

“Absolutely, yes, what a brilliant idea. It would be a really good thing to do with TB. To see if there is any consistency or rules being applied with her use of certain words or phrases or types of grammar or repetitions. It does feel like code breaking, doesn’t it? but it would all be scuppered if there was no underlying code or rules to uncover. What if it’s all just random, ruleless? (I probably shouldn’t value-laden that with a ‘just’)? But there must be some coherency to it surely, even if it is ‘rule-less’ Stein’s mind at full flight of fancy. There would be a coherency even if she wasn’t consciously aware of it, wouldn’t there? A Gesenius would be a fantastic tool to apply to it. If no patterns/rules could be found, we could at least stop torturing ourselves to find them, or could we, I wonder?? I’m sure I'd still be searching for the key somehow.”

Karren ventured her cosmic theory of Peter’s instruction manual comment as follows:

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. [Peter Treanor]

“Now back to the little instruction manual discussion that Peter initiated.

“The discussion of blank space we have seen before. Clearly in ‘Colored Hats.’
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.

“In ‘Colored Hats.’, we discussed Tzimtzum: ‘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.’

“What Peter is seeing in the small blank space between the words tiny and spot is the letter E. Since we don't have a good reason for E except that it produces the new word yes which seems to feed the ‘nice thing to say,’ we might as well think that E stands for Elohim, the first name for G-d. And this name indicates G-d as judge of the universe as opposed to YHVH (Yahweh), which indicates the close relationship G-d has with humans. Perhaps Stein is leading with her wrist (as in: writing) that between the words or lines of the sentences, she is calling out that her union with her beloved deserves good written words (if not those that can be said aloud.).

“This discussion of things hidden between other things, comes up in ‘In Between.’.

“So yes, I think you are so right Peter to see Tender Buttons as a set of little instruction manuals. If the reader looks long enough, he she will start to see the instructions for how to operate in the world where one is constantly judged.”


“Karren, I like that you have found g-d in E and in yes. Sounds like he should be in there.

“In ‘In Between.’ it feels like the blank spaces between the lines of print on a page are being referenced. There could be no sense made of text or writing if there wasn’t space between the lines of text,  to make the text discernible. So space is a place that lets meaning emerge.”



Suppose an eyes..... Well what’s she doing? Shouldn’t it be suppose an eye or suppose eyes? Can you put an ‘an’ in front of plural eyes? And those two p's in there look like two eyes on their side again (as do the dd's in saddle), I thought she did that somewhere else too (spoons and Isis see Stepping on Tender Buttons: “Malachite.” & “An Umbrella.”  ). And suppose E is the name for g-d, then it reads Suppose an E (g-d), yes!

“Suppose it is within a gate which open is open at the hour of closing summer that is to say it is so. a suppose it is within a gate, or agate , which is made up of lines and layers. Like her writing perhaps. And there is something within o pen is open that she may or may not be inviting us to look at. And the hour of closing summer, is that the vernal/ autumn equinox. the time of equal length of night and day. Equal dark and light, black and white both colours, which she brings in to the next line.

“Time is in here with summer ending and twenty four? 24 hours.

“The blackening of the seats ( polishing?) the white dress (as a sign/ensign),  and lace suggest a wedding .And  the soldier and worn lace conflict/ war/ fight of some kind. is  a battle or a conquest being liked to a marriage.

“If that is a penis hidden in open is open (surrounded by two o's, I note), then she refers to a couple of sizes, and go red, gored (impaled), rubbing, purring, laugh white (pure joy/bliss), little sales ladies as meat being mounted (saddles of mutton) and could leather be skin? (Stein uses leather a lot). Then it all seems to be quite a sexy romp, as much of TB does when you read it, but it doesn’t feel like that when you hear it read (red).”

Pramila Venkateswaran:

Suppose an Eyes is so visual. I imagined a gate with the design of eyes in it. 

Go red go red, laugh white. Could red signify rebellion (not necessarily communism), since Stein is radical in her politics and her poetics? And if one were going red, i.e. rebelling, are all eyes on that person? Is that person under surveillance? The white dress and the white laugh are socially accepted gestures that are benign so the immediate society is not threatened.”



“Stein uses variations on the word PLACE a lot!! Throughout these poems. (lace is in place).

“Look at the definition of seat—the word place is used again and again.

“Karren's mathematical symbol is described as a PLACEHOLDER.

“How about STRAITLACED! With all of its sexual & gender-bending connotations.

“LACE sounds like code, queer code. I'm pretty sure it is, but not sure exactly how it might have been used in 1914 or even how exactly it's used now.” [Here Eleanor pointed to a Youtube video of Rufus Wainwright singing “Jericho.”]

Think Steiny perverse in closing out this matter of scintillating verse but she has been racking her brain for how to take her leave of this study session. The word racking plays into this as does Peter’s discussion of how Stein leaves instructions for her reader on how to read Tender Buttons.  Thus we have seen that the title A Leave points to racking in parlor games like snooker. But here is the complete definition of rack:

rack 1  (răk)
a. A framework or stand in or on which to hold, hang, or display various articles: a trophy rack; a rack for baseball bats in the dugout; a drying rack for laundry.
b. Games A triangular frame for arranging billiard or pool balls at the start of a game.
c. A receptacle for livestock feed.
d. A frame for holding bombs in an aircraft.
2. Slang A bunk; a bed.
3. A toothed bar that meshes with a gearwheel, pinion, or other toothed machine part.
a. A state of intense anguish.
b. A cause of intense anguish.
5. An instrument of torture on which the victim's body was stretched.
6. A pair of antlers.
tr.v. racked, rack·ing, racks
1. To place (billiard balls, for example) in a rack.
2. To cause great physical or mental suffering to: Pain racked his entire body. See Synonyms at afflict.
3. To torture by means of the rack.

The first definition completely upends Steiny because it sounds like one of Stein’s instructions— A framework or stand in or on which to hold, hang, or display various articles. Like a White Hunter, Stein has been exhibiting her trophies in her hunt for how to establish what she loves in the world. What she loves in the world includes Alice whose presence we Buttons have been acknowledging particularly in Stein’s use of the article A. Stein also loves reinventing language such that a new grammar emerges. Her hope is for little sales of leather (leather bound books) that will be held beautiful to the nth dimension. And perhaps in Stein’s world there is no difference at all between high and low culture.

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