Saturday, November 8, 2014

Stepping Up Tender Buttons Objects: “Glazed glitter.”

THE BOOK ..........................-           TENDER BUTTONS
THE SUBBOOK ...................-           OBJECTS
THE SUBPOEM ...................-          Glazed glitter: NUMBER 2
WORD COUNT......................-           45
STANZA(S)............................-           1
Other TBO Study Links…….-               Link 1, Link 2     
THE LEADER........................-           THE STEINY ROAD POET

Almost every analysis of Stein begins with rhythm analysis.” Mary Armour


Nickel, what is nickel, it is originally rid of a cover.  

The change in that is that red weakens an hour. The change has come. There is no search. But there is, there is that hope and that interpretation and sometime, surely any s is unwelcome, sometime there is breath and there will be a sinecure and charming very charming is that clean and cleansing. Certainly glittering is handsome and convincing.

There is no gratitude in mercy and in medicine. There can be breakages in Japanese. That is no programme. That is no color chosen. It was chosen yesterday, that showed spitting and perhaps washing and polishing. It certainly showed no obligation and perhaps if borrowing is not natural there is some use in giving.

The 2014 Buttons Collective discussion of “Glazed glitter.” includes highlights of comments on: currency/money, fluidity/rhythm/sex, graven image/sacred text, interconnections between the first 2 subpoems, apocalypse, black sulfide as well as various word/phrase deconstructions. The Steiny Road Poets invokes her time machine and compass to offer a little background.


While “A carafe, that is a blind glass.” goes head on with Stein’s existence in the universe, “Glazed glitter.” is a way/weigh station on her matrimonial route. She is both pausing to contemplate how she got to this trip down the wedding aisle and she is weighing the change she is experiencing. As stated in Steiny’s October 7, 2013 post: in “Glazed glitter.”, “Stein is talking about money, specifically the American coin called the nickel and possibly the chemical element which is used to make up the American nickel. She is also talking about one’s livelihood and specifically her own, which formerly had been predicated on her study of medicine.” Here are some highlights of Steiny’s original look at “Glazed glitter.”:

·     — The buffalo nickel went into production in 1913. Because Stein wrote the “Objects” section last and Tender Buttons was written from 1912 to 1913 (and published in the spring of 1914), the new nickel was probably something Stein was aware of.

—  As a chemical element, nickel presents a silvery-white shine but may oxidize (turning a rusty red) when exposed to air or water. Maybe Stein considers this oxidation glazed glitter and is suggesting the oxidation is a temporal condition in the phrase red weakens an hour. In nature, nickel is often found in combination with the chemical element iron. Maybe Stein was referring to this condition of existing with iron in the opening line,  Nickel, what is nickel, it is originally rid of a cover where cover stands for iron.”
—While “Glazed glitter.” is heavy on negatives (5 no’s and 1 not), it is counter balanced with the linking verb is (without not) 13 times  and to be with modal verbs twice (i.e. will be and can be).


Some new thoughts that occur to Steiny based on reviewing what she wrote originally are:
   —Cows, cattle, sheep—cloven beasts—matter to Stein’s Tender Buttons landscape. (This will be learned later, especially in the “Food” section which begins with “Roastbeef.” and is followed by “Mutton.”.) While “Glazed glitter.” does not feature what adorns the American coin called a nickel, it does enough pointing—Nickel, what is nickel. It is originally rid of a cover—to make the discerning reader dig and find that the Liberty Head nickel circulated as the American five-cent coin from 1883 to 1912. Is Stein ironically remarking about the symbology for a nickel employed by the United States government—America, land of liberty (not for someone like Stein who was choosing a same-sex partner) now covered with a wild beast known better by the nomadic native Americans called Indians. Was Stein thinking of herself, she who had left America to make her home in France where she could better exercise her choices and be more liberated?
   —The history and making of Tender Buttons can be referenced in “The Making of ‘Tender Buttons’: Gertrude Stein's subjects, objects, and the illegible” by Joshua Schuster. One sticking point is that Schuster was unable to determine whether “Food” or “Rooms” was written first.
   If “Carafe…” with its containers (carafe and glass) and family words, like cousin and resembling, emphasizes existence, then “…Glitter.” weighs in heavily on appearance. Cover raises the question of what is underneath and the specter of “keeping up appearances.” Charming suggests how appearance or form can be changed with a magic spell or just pleasing behavior that alters another person’s bad mood. Clean, cleansing, washing, and polishing are what we do to make us look good, if not feel better. Also color declares itself strongly with that red weakens an hour but it comes with contradiction: That is no color chosen. It was chosen yesterday (perhaps a ruse to keep something too bright, too smart from getting too much exposure).


Judy Meibach asked what glazed glitter has to do with nickel? Karren Alenier (a.k.a. Steiny) answered:

“This subpoem is about change. Nickel is one type of change.”

Then Karren suggested looking at this list of words:
red weakens
change has come
clean and cleansing
glitter is handsome
no gratitude in mercy
chosen yesterday
showed no obligation
if borrowing is not natural
some use in giving

Karren continued building a case about how glazed glitter is connected to nickel.

If you buy into Tender Buttons being a sacred declaration of Stein's marriage to Toklas (and you may not, especially if you haven't had much time to sit with the "Objects" section), then you might sense a whiff of things Jewish and of sacred texts.

“I think this list of selected words might help you see the Jewish connection.

“For example, the word chosen, as in The Chosen People. Here's an excerpt from Wikipedia:

In Judaism, chosenness is the belief that the Jews are a people chosen to be in a covenant with God. The Jewish idea of being chosen is first found in the Torah (five books of Moses) and is elaborated on in later books of the Hebrew Bible. This status carries both responsibilities and blessings as described in the Biblical covenants with God.

“Except something is broken (breakages), weak (red weakens) and there are other problems like no gratitude and no sense of obligation. And why is borrowing not natural and this—a half hearted some use in giving?

“If you go back to Stein's text:  there will be a sinecure (a cushy job paying well). The root meaning of sinecure means without care. What is so good about a sinecure? Because glittering is handsome and convincing.

Then Karren suggested the possibility that Stein was associating the 1913 buffalo nickel with the Golden Calf. From Wikipedia:

When Moses went up into Biblical Mount Sinai to receive the Ten Commandments (Exodus 24:12-18), he left the Israelites for forty days and forty nights. The Israelites feared that he would not return and demanded that Aaron make them "gods" to go before them (Exodus 32:1). Aaron gathered up the Israelites' golden earrings, constructed a "molten calf" and "they" that demanded "gods" declared: "These [be] thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt." (Exodus 32:4) The plurality of gods depicted or honoured on the ear-rings became a united image of a calf, fashioned by Aaron with a "graving tool", a plurality in unity.[2]

Karren continued: “Then glazed glitter might refer to a graven image made from metals coming from the earth.
“What does the Golden Calf / glazed glitter represent to Stein?

“Could it be the lost income from that cushy job as a doctor? There is no gratitude in mercy and in medicine.


Therese Pope reporting on her live ModPo study group in California, said her group associated nickel with currency (nickel is a monetary coin) and how that relates to Stein’s overall title Tender Buttons (tender—something, especially money, offered in payment)

Mary Armour responded, “The current of attraction/repulsion running  through currency!”

Wanting clarification, Therese asked, “Do you mean the ‘flow’ of attraction like the current/connection between two people (maybe Gertrude and Alice?) and ‘repulsion’ for money/currency?”

Mary answered:

“I was thinking here about what happens to currency in circulation. Nickel, inferior to the original gold louis or franc, was a commonly held international reserve currency in the 19th and 20th centuries—in France nickel 25-centime coins were introduced in 1903.

“The etymology of currency and connection to a current:

1650s, "condition of flowing," from Latin currens, present participle of currere "to run" (see current (adj.)); the sense of a flow or course extended 1699 (by John Locke) to "circulation of money."

“There are coins glazed and glittering, new coins but as you say, all is not gold that glitters. This may refer to new nickel that will become tarnished nickel. As coins pass from hand to hand in circulation, from trouser pocket to shopkeepers till, what happens to the 'cover' or surface of  such coins? They  become tarnished, greasy, —but perhaps more shiny, rubbed shiny  with spit and polish. They acquire a patina perhaps, or they lose original lustre to take on another value or surfacing.

Nickel, what is nickel, it is originally rid of a cover.

“My mention of  an electrical current responding to forces of attraction/repulsion arises from what seems to me ambivalence in tone for certain phrases.

Certainly glittering is handsome and convincing.

“Could this be read ironically? What glitters may be handsome, but not necessarily convincing. Handsome is as handsome does. And if we read this as an ironic aside, what about that statement in the previous sentence—

there will be a sinecure and charming very charming

“What could be charming very charming about a sinecure? Within  some of Stein's sentences are embodied contradictions—how do we read phrases that seem to stand alone rather than integrated into the sentence? How are we meant to read handsome, convincing, charming except as terms that could point to either attraction or repulsion? Is sincerity found in what glitters?

“I am very taken with the reading you and Charles give of that complex last sentence which points one way and then another.

It certainly showed no obligation and perhaps if borrowing is not natural there is some use in giving.

“That word certainly again. Do we read it this time without irony? And then the pointer towards the value of altruism, giving. That tension between borrowing and giving—which incurs obligation, which shows obligation? Obligation in the exchange of currency referring to that sense of forced contractual obligation which means 'I owe you'.”


Here Steiny pauses for Mary’s unattended question: “how do we read phrases that seem to stand alone rather than integrated into the sentence?” Perhaps these stand-alone phrases are signposts that direct competing thoughts as if we readers were driving along a highway where the signs are not quite the language we are familiar with. This very phenomenon has caused Steiny to chart the kinds of words encountered in Tender Buttons into thematic categories. Steiny sees these themes in Tender Buttons: existence, appearance, morality, sexuality, gender, union, games, and printing-publishing-writing.

No matter that none of the attending Buttons picked up on Mary’s important question because Mary was bursting with follow-on ideas:

“Glazed Glitter.
Let's imagine there is a metronome somewhere in the  room. A wave beating up against the beach, a dog lapping water from a deep bowl, someone having hot sex on the other side of the wall, the pistons of an early Ford pumping. Almost every analysis of Stein begins with rhythm analysis. This helps us do an 'unbuttoned reading', if you like to call it that.”

At this juncture, Mary casually tossed in the following quote from a French Marxist philosopher who is best known for his three-volume study “Critique de la vie quotidienne” (The Critique of Everyday Life), which Wikipedia says puts everyday life at: the intersection of "illusion and truth, power and helplessness; the intersection of the sector man controls and the sector he does not control",[14] and is where the perpetually transformative conflict occurs between diverse, specific rhythms: the body’s polyrhythmic bundles of natural rhythms, physiological (natural) rhythms, and social rhythms (Lefebvre and Régulier, 1985: 73).[15]

Everywhere there is interaction between a place, a time and an expenditure of energy, there is rhythm. Henri Lefebvre

Mary continued:
“What is glazed glitter? There are a multiplicity of subtexts here, multiple readings of persuasive force.

“Art materials: A decorative glaze is a layer or coating of a vitreous substance which has been fused to a ceramic object through firing. Glaze can serve to color, decorate, strengthen or waterproof an item. Tiles, faience and mosaic.

“So you have surfaces. And a glaze that glitters. An old glazing technique is aventurine. Aventurine glazes consist of a glassy matrix that contains randomly distributed laminar crystals of high reflectivity. Direct incident light causes these crystals to sparkle, producing a glittering effect that varies with the angle of incident light. 

“We're talking about dispersal of light across surfaces and surfaces that sparkle when seen from many different angles. We're looking at surfaces that shine and glitter as if wet and glossy. Remember that red wheelbarrow glazed with rainwater [in the poem by William Carlos Williams]? Surfaces that are hard and brittle and look wet and touchable. That glitter everywhere and anywhere. Surfaces that are both fixed and malleable, shifting, altering constantly like the surface of an ocean, sparkling glittering and glazed with sheen, a pleasurable sight when seen from any angle, always new and scattered, diffused like starlight or a kaleidoscope, right over the body of the object. Everywhere you choose to look, there is glazed glitter.

“Your eyes glazed over with pleasure at the sight. And we could also be talking about that glazed glitter in a woman's eyes after…”

At this point Mary seductively gestures and drifts on but advocates that everyone should spend time listening to the Kelly Writers House webcast on Tender Buttons at 100.


Peter Treanor jumped in here to talk about the connections between “Carafe…” and “…Glitter.”:

“I was wondering with all the talk of GS writing in the continuous present and the parts of TB being a web relating to parts of itself, if it would be useful to look at all the objects together, rather than being separate in time and place. Are they on the same table or being encountered during a continuous present experience?.

“From A Carafe, we end with the difference spreading and in Glazed Glitter, we have change. The difference causes change.

“In GG, we have Nickel, nickel as a term for coins, needed to pay if you are in a cafe, and nickel rid of a cover, the absinthe spoons were often nickel-plated. They cover the glass, they have no lid on the spoon, it is open-topped. 

”It was chosen yesterday, that showed spitting and perhaps washing and polishing.

 And I’m looking at both of them through absinthe eyes.

“There is color in both poems (a single hurt color—Carafe) and in Glazed Glitter no color chosen. Red weakening the hour, could this be sunset? The reddening hour as the sun goes down. 5 pm was referred to as the green hour in Paris, as this was when you finished work and popped in the cafe for your first glass of absinthe. (according to Wikipedia). Red weakens green or maybe the weakening hour is the awakening hour. The green fairy is awakened. All resolve not to drink today is weakened and we decide we'll just have one . , the change has come, it is the green hour. The change of colour from green to opaque pearl of the absinthe in the glass.

“And sinecure comes from the Latin root to be ‘without care,’ which could be the seen as the desired destination of the traveler in absinthe. Without care and comfortable in the world of green.

All that washing, spitting and polishing makes me wonder if the chrome water fountains in the bars, with their system of taps to point into your glass of absinthe are being suggested.

“Therese, there are so many references to money and tender as well, aren’t there? Nickle as coin, change as small coinage. And sinecure (I had to look that up), status and financial benefit. And borrowing (usury), giving and gratitude (gratuity). All types of currency, exchange or tender.”
Sinecure—noun  A position requiring little or no work but giving the holder status or financial benefit
Origin: mid 17th century: from Latin sine cura 'without care'.


Then Peter offered this deconstruction:
The change in that is that red weakens an hour. 
to The change in that ist hatred weakens an hour. 
or The change in that ist hatred weakens amour.

Peter also offered this: “Satan was referred to as ‘Nick’ or ‘old Nick.’ And El is [one of many] Hebrew [names] for God, so Nickel (Nick El) becomes an alloy of God and Satan.”

Karren reminded Peter of another deconstruction he saw in an earlier study of “Objects”: nick=nicht (in German for not) + kel=k-El (Elohim, a name for G-d with the cover k)


Allan Keeton responded to this conjoining of devil-god and not god by seeing the apocalypse announced in this subpoem:

“Speaking of Old Nick (nicht El) rid of a cover.
Apocalypse means uncover.

Word Origin and History for apocalypse
n. late 14c., "revelation, disclosure," from Church Latin apocalypsis "revelation," from Greek apokalyptein "uncover, disclose, reveal," from apo- "from" (see apo -) + kalyptein "to cover, conceal" (see Calypso ). The Christian end-of-the-world story is part of the revelation in John of Patmos' book "Apokalypsis" (a title rendered into English as "Apocalypse" c.1230 and "Revelations" by Wyclif c.1380).

Nickel, what is nickel, it is originally rid of a cover.

That gives the change that red weakens an hour a darker cast.
The change in that is that red weakens an hour. The change has come.

“But there is hope.
Even when the unwelcome glittering and convincing charmer,
Satan-the Snake-has claimed his sinecure.

There is no search. But there is, there is that hope and that interpretation and sometime, surely any S is unwelcome, sometime there is breath and there will be a sinecure and charming very charming is that clean and cleansing. Certainly glittering is handsome and convincing.


Karren: “is S for Stein, She or the German word es as in to eat?”

surely any S is unwelcome,
surely  analysis unwelcome

MS Boase:
“I think it's simply exclusivity. S is just a signifier, any Somebody. Stein wants her [Toklas] to herself. But instead of surely not anybody is welcome, it becomes surely any somebody is unwelcome. It's against authority. … She doesn't want ABT herself to become the object of affection of some somebody sometime.”

Like silver which is more often found embedded in lead, nickel is often found embedded in iron. In later subpoems of “Objects,” Stein pairs silver and lead in such a way that it seems Toklas is silver and Stein, lead. MS made this comment about S, “Coming back from subpoem three, there are implications of silver in this one. The obvious one that silver glitters, silver as Ag, the S which is unwelcome is black sulfide (Ag2S) which tarnishes silver over time (and has application in photography, not sure if relevant, or since when), the polishing and cleansing referenced could then mean to keep silver sparkling...”

Ah yes, MS, Steiny nods appreciatively, photography, silver, the elements are all relevant.

One final thought, after all this discussion of tarnish, apocalypse, devil versus God, and the seduction of what glitters, is There can be breakages in Japanese could be connected to the Japanese philosophy of wabi-sabi, which embraces what is flawed or imperfect. (Buttons, listen up, you might remember this concept from our 2013-2014 studies and yes, there will be lots of other examples.) In “Glazed glitter.”, Stein is allowing for the imperfect. It might also glance off the broken relationship with her brother Leo. Leo, by the way, traveled to Japan and lived there several months with his cousin. He even took a Japanese “wife.”  For Stein, Toklas may be flawed but Stein is willing to appreciate her for the color and nourishment Toklas brings into Stein’s existence.

Contributors to this discussion included: Karren Alenier, Mary Armour, M S Boase, Allan Keeton, Judy Meibach, Therese Pope, Nicola Quinn, Peter Treanor, Nathan Walker

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