Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Stepping Up Tender Buttons Objects: “A carafe, that is a blind glass.”

THE BOOK ..........................-           TENDER BUTTONS
THE SUBBOOK ...................-           OBJECTS
THE SUBPOEM ...................-          A carafe, that is a blind glass: NUMBER 1
WORD COUNT......................-           45
STANZA(S)............................-           1
Other Study Links                               Link 1, Link 2
THE LEADER........................-           THE STEINY ROAD POET

Let's just take a compass rose as a place for looking at a system of pointing.” Mary Armour

“…maybe we are blinded by our own prejudices when it comes to concerns we find taboo or out of our comfort zones—the carafe is full, so to speak. Too full, that it becomes a blind glass.” T. De Los Reyes

I am thinking about / looking forward ahead to cloth as a woven web...” Nathan Walker


A kind in glass and a cousin, a spectacle and nothing strange a single hurt color and an arrangement in a system to pointing. All this and not ordinary, not unordered in not resembling. The difference is spreading.


The Steiny Road Poet decided to lead a new ModPo study group on Tender Buttons Objects (section 1) as a way to ease into a forthcoming and brand new ModPo study group on Tender Buttons Food (section 2). Because Stein’s work is so multi-dimensional, new things have been seen, which may aid in close reading “Food.”

One change to note is, forthwith. Steiny will spell the titles of Tender Buttons subpoems as Stein intended, but which was not noted until recently in the Corrected Centennial Tender Buttons edited by Seth Perlow. This means that the initial word will be capitalized but not the rest of the title except for a couple of anomalies: “A little called Pauline.” and “Colored Hats.”.

In these blogposts, Steiny will attempt to showcase selected comments and summarize without embellishment others concerning what hasn’t been noticed in previous study sessions.

To be inclusive, here are some points noticed by Steiny in her October 6, 2013 post:

—Gertrude Stein’s existence weighed heavy on her since she knew she and her brother Leo were replacements for children who came before them and who did not survive their infancy.

Therefore Steiny read “A carafe, that is a blind glass.” as a story of Stein’s birth. Key words: kind (Kind
èGerman for child), cousin, spectacle, hurt color, resembling.
—Arrangement in a system to pointing might indicate an arranged marriage, which also weighs heavily on producing children. But it could also be how to read Torah with an implement called a yad or it could be the way vowels are inserted (after the fact) in Hebrew text or an indication for how to chant a psalm.
—Stein as consummate scientist concerns herself with elemental balance. Ergo her double negative bookended with simple negatives: All this and not ordinary, not unordered in not resembling. More importantly, she is emphasizing existence in the opening subpoem and that existence which is different is proliferating.


Robert Dougherty offered this close reading that built upon the word kind as giving:

If I can build upon my definition of "kind as giving" as the carafe "gives wine to the glass," I can see a metaphor that Stein may have built.  

The carafe is not a real carafe but a person with knowledge.  The carafe gives intangible "knowledge" to a glass that is an empty vessel, not a real glass but another person who receives "knowledge."  The carafe is made of "blind glass" because when a person like a poet, for example gives a poem to the future, the poet does not know who will read the poem.  

The carafe and the glass are cousins, as are the one who writes and the one who reads the poem.  Hurt glass refers to the transfer of emotion over time without actual touch. It is an "Arrangement." It points in time always from writer to reader, it is a system of passing knowledge from one generation to the next, from the carafe to the glass, always blind, in birth it hurts as with passing knowledge. Thus the "difference" the carafe "spreads" is its content (knowledge) to the future.


Gertrude Stein: A kind in glass and a cousin

Anthony Watkins: A kinding lass and a cousin

Peter Treanor:  A kindèakinèkin
Peter Treanor:  a cousinèaccusing
Peter Treanor:  A kin ding lass sand a cousin

Peter Treanor:  an object that could be part of a group or family, made of glass but "blind" glass, part of a pointing/orientated system. A compass? a watch? a clock? 
Peter Treanor:  A watch, cousin to a compass.
Mary Armour: Compass: 'an arrangement in a system to pointing' but not always true North.

Peter Treanor:  an arrangement in a system to pointingè a derangement in a system to painting. (Is Stein explaining, orienting the reader before she him/her on the voyage through TB. And referring to Cubism, all this—this poem, sentence, word—not ordinary, ordered, not resembling. Like a Cubist painting.)

Karren Alenier: Using a backward reach from "A Chair.", a subpoem that seems to deal with the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, cousin and spectacle might suggest Our American Cousin, the play Lincoln was watching when John Wilkes Booth shot him, thereby causing the hurt color and causing the need for an arrangement in a system (the justice system) to (finger) pointing (the accused assassin).

Peter Treanor: a carafeèa craft


From the word play came Mary Armour’s thoughts on what a system to pointing might indicate:

Let's just take a compass rose as a place for looking at a system of pointing. Gertrude Stein begins to write about OBJECTS and begins by giving the reader directions for a new way of looking and journeying. She begins therefore with an arrangement in a system of pointing, and for her purposes, the spectacle of a glass and carafe on a table is a compass, nothing strange. But not ordinary, not unordered, not resembling, a different kind of arrangement for pointing.

On the compass there are four cardinal directions: North, South, East , West. There are eight inter-cardinal (or ordinal) directions northeast (NE), southeast (SE), southwest (SW), and northwest (NW). Intermediate points are added to give the sixteen points of a wind compass. 32 points for a mariner's compass. This is how we navigate, taking our bearings traditionally from True North (rather than magnetic North). But if you can 'see' a multiplicity of directions and possibilities simultaneously, you don't need True North. Here or there depends on a different kind of perspective. As GS said of Oakland, "There is no there there."

The compass or arrangement for pointing Gertrude Stein chooses is not pointing out there to a representational reality or topology or climate outside of language. It is a linguistic signifying pointer to language itself, language as reality, language as seeing. It is a compass pointing to blindness and insight.


Among the philosophers and philosophy brought into this study session were:
Wittgenstein—on language games,
Alfred North Whitehead—on process and reality
Empiricism—relative to the role of experience and evidence
Edmund Husserl—relative to phenomenology of embodiment

Mary Armour: As we launch into Objects, I'd like to just give a little quotation from Wittgenstein on 'language games' to remind us all about the many teasing games played in language-making and how many ways we can 'hear' or  'read' a communication. All of them, some of them and  more than one of them are to be found in Stein:

'Review the multiplicity of language games in the following examples, and in others: 

--Giving orders, and obeying them-- 
--Describing the appearance of an object, or giving its measurements
--Constructing an object from a description (a drawing)-- 
--Reporting an event-- 
--Speculating about an event-- 
--Forming or teasing a hypothesis-- 
--Presenting the results of an experiment in tables and diagrams-- 
--Making up a story; and reading it-- 
--Singing catches-- 
--Guessing riddles-- 
--Making riddles-- 
--Making a joke; telling it-- 
--Solving a problem in practical arithmetic-- 
--Translating from one language into another-- 
--Asking, thanking, cursing, greeting, praying.'

Karren Alenier excited about the language game list (Sprachspiel) offered these Wikipedia quotes about Wittgenstein and about the relationship Stein had with Alfred North Whitehead:

Ludwig Josef Johann Wittgenstein (26 April 1889 – 29 April 1951) was an Austrian-British philosopher who worked primarily in logic, the philosophy of mathematics, the philosophy of mind, and the philosophy of language.[4] From 1929–1947, Wittgenstein taught at the University of Cambridge.[5] During his lifetime he published just one slim book, the 75-page Tractatus Logico Philosophicus (1921), one article, one book review and a children's dictionary.[6] His voluminous manuscripts were edited and published posthumously.

Alenier: “So what this bio intro says, Stein probably didn't know anything about Wittgenstein's work unless her good friend Alfred North Whitehead knew him. Stein & Toklas got stuck at his house in July 1914 as WWI was erupting (that was after publication in May 1914 of Tender Buttons—I’m not sure when she first met this philosopher). Here’s a profile on Whtehead:”

Beginning in the late 1910s and early 1920s, Whitehead gradually turned his attention from mathematics to philosophy of science, and finally to metaphysics. He developed a comprehensive metaphysical system which radically departed from most of western philosophy. Whitehead argued that reality was fundamentally constructed by events rather than substances, and that these events cannot be defined apart from their relations to other events, thus rejecting the theory of independently existing substances.[28] Today Whitehead's philosophical works – particularly Process and Reality– are regarded as the foundational texts of process philosophy.

Whitehead's process philosophy argues that "there is urgency in coming to see the world as a web of interrelated processes of which we are integral parts, so that all of our choices and actions have consequences for the world around us."[28]

Alenier: “Anyway, Mary that language game list is a good roadmap for reading Stein!!!”

Nathan Walker: “I think there is a definite and ongoing connection to Whitehead's Process and Reality to be made, even outside of friendship and association. (Stein knew Whitehead and spent several weeks at his house when she and Toklas got stuck in England at the start of WWI.) To look at Whitehead in concert with Cezanne's influence on Stein gives one pretty much a compositional technique of a field made from the networked connections between distributed elements, each of which is weighted equally in the composition, and points at every other element with multiple, over-determined threads. This produces a web, or tapestry.”

Peter Treanor: “The description of TBs as a web of interconnected parts seems to me to be a description of the human brain also—a web of interconnected parts that have a conversation with each other. Though some pathways may be more established than others, it still has the potential to make interconnections and have “conversations" with itself and its constituent  parts.

“Whatever Whitehead is saying about the properties of these webs, the effect here would seem to be enhanced by one web being superimposed on another. And then if you think of us reading TB (a web) with our brains (a web) in this online form (a web), which is another web of interconnected parts having a conversation with itself, the effect of the process that is claimed for this interconnected web would be enhanced three fold.

“What is Whitehead claiming about these kinds of webs? That they effect/ alter/ create reality in someway? I’d be ready to believe anything since some of my experiences last year on this thread [Tender Buttons study] were strange and bizarre as weird synchronicities seemed to bounce around all over the place.”

Allan Keeton:
Nathan, we should
keep an eye out
for mentions of
your fabric
in the other buttons.

There is the dress
in which the fabric
has been manufactured.
There is cloth--the fundamental fabric
& lace--with its lacy spider web--

Each dew drop a button
each button a compass
each compass pointing
to all the others.

Nathan Walker: “Allan - yes! I am thinking about / looking forward ahead to cloth as a woven web, for sure!

“Peter - yes! this course has got me thinking about Gertrude Stein as a essentially an early pioneer of at least cybernetics and neural net theory, and her being a philosopher of consciousness and brain science is directly borne out in her formal education and interest (William James, medical school, etc.). Whitehead and Stein influenced each other's thought.

“Mary Armour has posted brilliantly elsewhere about the consciousness structured / required by TB and GS as being dispersed across a relational system, a diffuse consciousness of diffusion, of spreading, of differentiated meaning.

“I tend to think about Gertrude Stein in terms of Empirical Philosophy, (and also of contemporaneous parallel developments in Husserl's Phenomenology), that she, like Cezanne, was painting from life, and also her consciousness about or interacting with the relational object-system becomes another element in that system, as does the word-tapestry which coalesces around them.”


Anthony Risser observed an abundance of the word in within words in Stein’s opening line: A kind in glass and a cousin, a spectacle and nothing strange a single hurt color and an arrangement in a system to pointing.

“I am struck by how often ‘n’ is present here:”

A kind in glass and a cousin, a spectacle and nothing strange a single hurt color and an arrangement in a system to pointing.

“’In’ is a warm and friendly word. It is like GS is communicating a sense of inclusiveness in what she and we as reader are about to embark upon.”

Peter Treanor: “wow yes lots of in’s in there.
And cou is French for neck, plural, cous.
So a carafe is a glass with a neck, a cous in.”

What Anthony Risser said reminded Karren Alenier about Stein’s use of “in and in” in:


To be a wall with a damper a stream of pounding way and nearly enough choice makes a steady midnight. It is pus. 

A shallow hole rose on red, a shallow hole in and in this makes ale less. It shows shine. Tender Buttons “Objects,” subpoem 49 “Shoes.”

For Allan Keeton, this subject made for rhapsody:

She is also insisting,
by loving repeating in,
on pointing
into the carafe
which as peter says
is carafeted.
It is the poem itself.

All this is in it.
hint hin't

Therese Pope capped the conversation: “Anthony, the ‘ins’ you mentioned were front and center during our Steiny Sacramento (California) Study Group today. I pointed out ‘in’ and also my eyes found more in other subpoems we discussed. I felt like the ‘in’ was literally taking us inside the language. I think you mentioned her inclusiveness?”


Related to in came a long discussion about what might be in carafe. Here’s where the discussion turned to absinthe. Mary Armour introduced the subject this way:

“I read this 'single hurt colour' as red wine  because there's a constellation of symbolic and  literal red-ness in Tender Buttons, to do with wine, blood, hats, etc. but for a minute I want to  just look at another  blind hurt colour—absinthe (banned in France in 1914 but Gertrude and Alice did serve it to guests at l’heure verte). Van Gogh's 1887 Glass of Absinthe and Carafe.

“From The Autobiography of Alice B Toklas:

“I was sitting said Alfie at a café and Paris was pale, if you know what I mean said Alfie, it was like a pale absinthe.


Mary Armour also honed in on the negatives in the next to last sentence and how that sentence bleeds into the last sentence:

not ordinary
not unordered
not resembling

“What is the power of saying no in THIS? Repeated no’s, not ordinary, not unordered in not resembling, What is set apart like  glass and carafe, related but separate, orderly but without resemblance, a system for pointing.

“What is not ordinary is unique

“What is not unordered is ordered, harmonious, in place

“What is not resembling is unalike, different, unique, of a different kind of order, not to be confused with anything else, a new kind of difference.

“And so it follows that The difference is spreading."

Karren Alenier remarked:

“Your Xplanation of not ordinary, not unordered in not resembling is a truth table.

“This becomes important when you notice as we read further into "Objects" all the tables that Stein sets out for us.  

“Here again another thread cast, a big connection to other points and that's how the difference spreads.

“By the way if you go to the root for differ—you find:

[Middle English differren, from Old French differer, from Latin differre, to differ, delay : dis-, apart; see dis- + ferre, to carry; see bher-1 in Indo-European roots.]

“So there is a lot of weight in difference and I think difference is a partner word to kind where kind points to gender.  What I'm getting at is the same-sex marriage that Stein is hiding but also trying to justify with Tender Buttons, the Stein-Toklas marriage journal-bible.”

T. De Los Reyes picked up on difference in this way:

“My contribution to this thread is this in relation to "a spectacle and nothing strange": how perhaps Stein is saying that the things/issues people make out to be a big deal isn't really a big deal, and shouldn't be a big deal. That maybe we are blinded by our own prejudices when it comes to concerns we find taboo or out of our comfort zones—the carafe is full, so to speak. Too full, that it becomes a blind glass.

“Homosexuality, even sexuality alone—to talk about these, either in writing or verbally, can become public spectacles when narrow-minded people make it so, when in fact, there is nothing strange about the way people love and live. Perhaps in this vein "a single hurt" means the pain is singular, only felt by the one being looked down upon, while everyone else is on the other side ‘pointing.’

“Perhaps Stein is calling out this behaviour now in her writing, in her book, perhaps Tender Buttons was a testament to all these ‘spectacle"’; perhaps it was a statement. Thus she begins with this first object.”

Karren Alenier answered, “I firmly believe that while she is covering, she is also revealing. So I think she makes the wedding canopy (chuppah) with the prayer shawl (tallit) for her bride and if you have night (or let's say nice) vision, you can see what she is doing and that it is out in the open.”

M S Boase: “Carafe and glass are both containers, so symbolically feminine objects (empty, fertile like the divine feminine, or indeed la chambre, la casa, if rooms weren't empty, if houses weren't hollow, then we couldn't live in them).”


Conversation and reaction to “A carafe, that is a blind glass.” is ceaseless. It is of a kind without equal in the world of poetry and, no doubt, more insights will crop up.

Contributors to this discussion included: Karren Alenier, Mary Armour, M S Boase, Christine Coates, T. De Los Reyes, Robert Dougherty, Pavel Frolov, Allan Keeton, Judy Meibach, Therese Pope, Georgia Poulopoulou, Nicola Quinn, Anthony Risser, Mark Snyder, Peter Treanor, Nathan Walker, Anthony Watkins.

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