LOOKING AT THE REPETITION.
Monday, August 10, 2015
Cooking with Tender Buttons Food: Roastbeef. Stanzas 1-3. Discussion 2
THE BOOK ..........................- TENDER BUTTONS
THE SUBBOOK ...................- FOOD
THE SUBPOEM ..................- Roastbeef
WORD COUNT (Total)……..- 1757
THE LEADER........................- THE STEINY ROAD POET
CO-LLABORATORS.............- MODPO STUDENTS/THE BUTTONS
Because every word in Tender Buttons can open a universe of possibilities and the entire subpoem is composed of 1757 words, the challenge for approaching and discussing “Roastbeef.” is daunting. To the Buttons Collective (a group studying Tender Buttons with the ModPo MOOC discussion forum), the Steiny Road Poet served the longest subpoem of Tender Buttons as a diet of six portions. Even now after the discussion threads on “Roastbeef.” have sat dormant for many months, Steiny still feels the hugeness and the difficulty of how to organize and “make sense” of the commentary. So she will proceed by making at least seven separate posts (including the post on the title alone) and she will chew the fat of “Roastbeef.” as she goes. Most likely Steiny will see things that were not discussed. This is what happens when anyone rereads Stein’s work but especially Tender Buttons.
Thus we begin with the first three stanzas of “Roastbeef.”, which has a 395-word count, including the title. Among the topics addressed in this post are boats, cows, Old Testament and Shakespearean reverberations, and Stein’s lexicon including dirt and meadow.
In the inside there is sleeping, in the outside there is reddening, in the morning there is meaning, in the evening there is feeling. In the evening there is feeling. In feeling anything is resting, in feeling anything is mounting, in feeling there is resignation, in feeling there is recognition, in feeling there is recurrence and entirely mistaken there is pinching. All the standards have steamers and all the curtains have bed linen and all the yellow has discrimination and all the circle has circling. This makes sand.
Very well. Certainly the length is thinner and the rest, the round rest has a longer summer. To shine, why not shine, to shine, to station, to enlarge, to hurry the measure all this means nothing if there is singing, if there is singing then there is the resumption.
The change the dirt, not to change dirt means that there is no beefsteak and not to have that is no obstruction, it is so easy to exchange meaning, it is so easy to see the difference. The difference is that a plain resource is not entangled with thickness and it does not mean that thickness shows such cutting, it does mean that a meadow is useful and a cow absurd. It does not mean that there are tears, it does not mean that exudation is cumbersome, it means no more than a memory, a choice and a reestablishment, it means more than any escape from a surrounding extra. All the time that there is use there is use and any time there is a surface there is a surface, and every time there is an exception there is an exception and every time there is a division there is a dividing. Any time there is a surface there is a surface and every time there is a suggestion there is a suggestion and every time there is silence there is silence and every time that is languid there is that there then and not oftener, not always, not particular, tender and changing and external and central and surrounded and singular and simple and the same and the surface and the circle and the shine and the succor and the white and the same and the better and the red and the same and the centre and the yellow and the tender and the better, and altogether.
“The first thing that strikes me is that there's very little mention of food in it, little to do with roast beef.” Peter Treanor
WHATEVER FLOATS YOUR …
Stanza one could depict a riverboat traveling from night into dawn. Because there is sleeping on the inside contrasted with reddening on the outside, one gets the feeling there could be some illicit sex involved. Possibly it could be sex between Gertrude and Alice. Is someone like Gertrude embarrassed? Anything is mounting and pinching (pinching as in the slang meaning of stealing) also seems to support this idea of something unlawful going on. All the standards have steamers may be flags (standards) flying on these riverboats which have paddlewheels that circle and stir up sand. If the yellow represents the sun, then in the light of day comes discrimination (against a same sex couple?), especially as the text moves in stanza three to the land.
In the ModPo discussion forum, Karren Alenier [a.k.a. Steiny] stated the following:
“So if the last sentences of stanza 1 refer to a riverboat with a paddle wheel. The second stanza resonates with water (well) and some kind of measurements related to the navigation of the boat. Those boats were run in the summer and lots of gambling took place on them as well as entertainment including singing.”
Peter Treanor added, “there were passenger steam boats in Paris on the Seine at this time too, although they were dwindling in popularity as the railways and Metro were replacing them.”
Steiny finds it interesting that Stein begins the Food section with text that seems to indicate a boat because her table of contents does not include the subpoem entitled “Chain-boats.”. A chain boat is a modified paddleboat that ran in shallow waters and was used on the Seine River to transport such items as food.
STEIN’S ACTIVE LYRICISM
What immediately struck Steiny when she read the first stanza was the lyricism that Stein creates with repetition and the use of ing words. Here’s how Alenier mapped that:
In feeling --5X (feeling--7X)
there is --28X (in the first 3 stanzas)
ing--19X (first stanza)
IS STEIN IMITATING THE BIBLE?
Alenier said that possibly Stein was “imitating the Bible which uses repetition, particularly the word and. Alenier offered the following passage from Genesis [King James version]:
2 And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.
5 And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.
6 And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.
7 And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so.
Existence was a dominant theme for Stein ever since she had learned that she and her brother Leo were replacement children after the fourth and fifth Stein children died in their infancy. While the order of the Tender Buttons sections—“Objects”, “Food”, and “Rooms”—was selected by Stein’s Claire Marie publisher, the power of beginning Tender Buttons with “A carafe, that is a blind glass.” and its many intimations of birth and its shadings that point to a Jewish Biblical landscape made Steiny rethink how significant the tone of “Roastbeef.”’s stanza one is relative to the passage of Genesis as stated above.
This thought made Steiny do some bean counting through out the entire 37 stanzas of “Roastbeef.” Here is what Steiny saw:
Words Repeated Number of times
there is 72
there are 9
With the repetition of the word feeling, Stein has expanded the conception of the verb to be—as a baby born or not, considering that Gertrude may not have been born except for the death of other siblings—making to be bigger than birth with emphasis on union. Union depends heavily on the conjunction a-n-d, where A or a throughout Tender Buttons stands for [A]lice Toklas. Tender Buttons is thus the sacred covenant or bible of Gertrude Stein’s clandestine marriage to Alice Babette Toklas.
As Genesis repeats and to make the text flow like the waters God creates in conjunction with the firmament, stanza one of section two “Food”/ subpoem one “Roastbeef.” not only creates fluidity by repeating and four times but also by repeating there is nine times and by using ing words 19 times.
In discussing the crossover words with Judy Meibach, Alenier noted that, in stanza three, words like dirt [The change the dirt, not to change dirt means that there is no beefsteak] and meadow [it does mean that a meadow is useful and a cow absurd] might be stand-ins for firmament while dividing [every time there is a division there is a dividing] and exudation [it does not mean that exudation is cumbersome] correlate to birth (birth of planet Earth and humankind that God eventually creates). Alenier also referred to this passage of Genesis:
18 And to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness: and God saw that it was good.
20 And God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life, and fowl that may fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven.
21 And God created great whales, and every living creature that moveth, which the waters brought forth abundantly, after their kind, and every winged fowl after his kind: and God saw that it was good.
22 And God blessed them, saying, Be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let fowl multiply in the earth.
24 And God said, Let the earth bring forth the living creature after his kind, cattle, and creeping thing, and beast of the earth after his kind: and it was so.
25 And God made the beast of the earth after his kind, and cattle after their kind, and every thing that creepeth upon the earth after his kind: and God saw that it was good.
Alenier continued, “Stein was vocal about procreating. She said she believed in it though she never thought of herself as a woman who would bear children. I believe she was vocal about this when she was in medical school [where she went into the African-American community and assisted with the delivery of children].”
IN THE RURAL HAVEN WITH THE ABSURD COW
For the moment, Steiny will put Stein’s lyricism on hold to address the physicality and literalness of these introductory 395 words. Do these three stanza have anything to do with the food called roast beef?
Here’s what Treanor observed:
“Reading it, the piece as a whole, standing back and squinting my eyes a bit, the first thing that strikes me is that there's very little mention of food in it, little to do with roast beef. There’s the mention of beefsteak and the absurd cow grazing in the meadow and converting dirt to grass to meat and maybe milk (a cumbersome exudate from the memory/ mammary, cows udders get very cumbersome before they are milked). Seems like there is more to do with producing tender meat on the cow than there is to do with killing, cooking, and eating it.
“But what comes over to me is the sense of being in a sunny summer day, people sleeping inside and getting suntanned (reddening) outside. The yellow, circle has circling, and to shine seem like the sun. There is sand as well.
“All seems very well, there is singing. The dirt is changing to grass in the meadow, the grass is not entangled, it’s lush meadow, cows are eating and growing producing meat and milk. The white could be more milk and the better could be butter. It’s a time of plenty—there’s a lot of dividing and repeating in the text indicating fruitfulness, growth, and the rhythm of the days. She points to this repeating and dividing having to do with—surface, suggestion, silence, languid (rest), tender(ness), change, being external and central. And there’s warmth and support (succor). It all feels very relaxed and productive, a rural haven, a Forest of Arden.”
DIRT, DIRTIER, DIRTY
The change the dirt, not to change dirt means that there is no beefsteak and not to have that is no obstruction, it is so easy to exchange meaning, it is so easy to see the difference. The difference is that a plain resource is not entangled with thickness and it does not mean that thickness shows such cutting, it does mean that a meadow is useful and a cow absurd.
Allan Keeton said, riffing on the passage above from stanza three “Roastbeef.”:
It is so easy to exchange meanings—
dirt -> meadow -> cow -> roastbeef -> human
it is so easy to see the difference.
Not to change the dirt means there is no beefsteak.
Without changing the grammar
there is no poem
Steiny sees this Great Chain of Being interpretation (where everything has its place) as Stein shaking up the universe with her revolutionary grammar. Keeton equates dirt to Stein’s grammar revolution. In Stein’s rules of grammar, she juxtaposes contrasting words as well as picking them apart. Therefore, in close proximity, Stein gives us change the dirt and exchange meaning.
Alenier also pulled out these words from stanza three because they seemed to create a dialectic for Stein about whether she should accept the union between herself and Toklas:
obstruction (vs. exchange)
mean-ing (vs. difference--I am dividing the word to show its negative behavioral side)
tender and changing
However, the appearance of dirt would not be complete without a look at how Stein refers to dirt in various subpoems of section 1 “Objects”. Here’s what Alenier compiled in the ModPo discussion forum:
“Casting out the net from Food to Objects (dirt)”
The change the dirt, not to change dirt means that there is no beefsteak and not to have that is no obstruction, it is so easy to exchange meaning, it is so easy to see the difference.
Callous is something that hardening leaves behind what will be soft if there is a genuine interest in there being present as many girls as men. Does this change. It shows that dirt is clean when there is a volume.
A PIECE OF COFFEE. (excerpt)
A single image is not splendor. Dirty is yellow. A sign of more in not mentioned. A piece of coffee is not a detainer. The resemblance to yellow is dirtier and distincter. The clean mixture is whiter and not coal color, never more coal color than altogether.
DIRT AND NOT COPPER. (excerpt)
Dirt and not copper makes a color darker. …
If lilies are lily white if they exhaust noise and distance and even dust, if they dusty will dirt a surface that has no extreme grace, if they do this and it is not necessary it is not at all necessary if they do this they need a catalogue.
A PIANO. (excerpt)
... If there is no dirt in a pin and there can be none scarcely, if there is not then the place is the same as up standing.
A CHAIR. (excerpt)
If the chance to dirty diminishing is necessary, if it is why is there no complexion, why is there no rubbing, why is there no special protection.
“Dirt, dirtier, dirty is used in Objects 8 times and 11 times in Food.
“Dirt pertains to appearance for Stein and it seems to be fraught with negative connotations but not always as in ‘Dirt and not copper.’ and ‘A red stamp.’, which pertain to natural elements. Probably ‘A piano.’ is not negative but just a fact.
“Often Stein is contrasting dirt with what is clean. This seems to fall into the Jewish frame of what is kosher and what is trayfe (unclean). Relative to kosher ritual, one can make a knife kosher by plunging it into dirt. If a Torah (holy scripture written on a sacred scroll) is retired, it is buried with the kind of honors given a deceased person.”
Treanor reacted to Alenier’s dirt study by saying:
“Dirt baffles me. It’s such a strange word to use.
Is it dust, earth/ mud /soil or an uncleanness? Or is it just dirt?
Is it the same meaning when used each time? It doesn’t seem like it can be in the contexts it is used.
“Dirt is so brief and curt, and there seems to be a disparaging moral / judgmental aspect to it also. To be dirty seems to be morally questionable somehow.”
“I agree it's curt, cruel and very judgmental when it is not just the element of the earth. I think it is tied to being judged for the same-sex union.
“and look at the root meaning:
[Middle English, variant of drit, excrement, filth, mud, from Old Norse.]
“I think it goes with death, dearth (scarcity, paucity, inadequate number).
“But still we come from the earth and go back to the earth.”
“Stein loved Shakespeare and so I thought—well could be a needle in haystack situation but in DC [where Alenier lives], there is a production of As You Like it and it occurred to me that comedy was the right category of Shakespeare to search and why not As You Like it?
Hanging on a meathook
Van Reipen Collective's "Food"
“So I went to my book of Shakespearean play summaries and decided Act III was where to look. Here is what I found:”
Truly, shepherd, in respect of itself, it is a good
life, but in respect that it is a shepherd's life,
it is naught. In respect that it is solitary, I
like it very well; but in respect that it is
private, it is a very vile life. Now, in respect it
is in the fields, it pleaseth me well; but in
respect it is not in the court, it is tedious. As
is it a spare life, look you, it fits my humour well;
but as there is no more plenty in it, it goes much
against my stomach. Hast any philosophy in thee, shepherd?
No more but that I know the more one sickens the
worse at ease he is; and that he that wants money,
means and content is without three good friends;
that the property of rain is to wet and fire to
burn; that good pasture makes fat sheep, and that a
great cause of the night is lack of the sun; that
he that hath learned no wit by nature nor art may
complain of good breeding or comes of a very dull kindred.
As You Like it, Act III, Scene 1
Alenier correlated what Touchstone said with his repetitions of in respect to:
In the inside there is sleeping, in the outside there is reddening, in the morning there is meaning, in the evening there is feeling. In the evening there is feeling. In feeling anything is resting, in feeling anything is mounting, in feeling there is resignation, in feeling there is recognition, in feeling there is recurrence and entirely mistaken there is pinching. Tender Buttons, section 2 "Food", first subpoem "Roastbeef."
Then Alenier got into a feeding frenzy and discovered As You Like it had many correlations to Tender Buttons. So Alenier wrote an introduction and annotated As You Like for Scene4 Magazine.
NOW THE ROMP IN THE HAY
Alenier provided this Xplanation about why she looked at the word meadow:
“Why I pick meadow to look at is probably esoteric, but the word is tied to coming upon once again the word meadow in the last subpoem of "Objects". There is something medieval about a ‘meadowed king.’”
Here are the details:
Casting out the net from Food to Objects (meadow)
The difference is that a plain resource is not entangled with thickness and it does not mean that thickness shows such cutting, it does mean that a meadow is useful and a cow absurd.
Water astonishing and difficult altogether makes a meadow and a stroke.
THIS IS THIS DRESS, AIDER. (excerpt)
A jack in kill her, a jack in, makes a meadowed king, makes a to let.
“Meadow is used 3 times in ‘Food’.” [We will address the other uses of meadow later when we get to the subpoems that have that word.]
“I just had this weird insight because of the MS-Word instant spell checking—it divided meadowed as mead owed. Now those two words—mead (an old alcoholic drink) and owed also seem medieval. A king who must be served an alcoholic drink.
“At any rate, in ‘Water raining.’, I associate meadow (where nourishment comes from) with Toklas and stroke (stroke of the pen) with Stein. Now, what this does for the use of meadow in ‘Roastbeef.’ is up for grabs. So here goes my lame attempt:
“What was learned in close reading ‘Objects’ is that Stein & Toklas agree to marry and their children will be Stein's published books. There is an elaborate encoding of sex in Tender Buttons and the pen represents Stein, who considers herself a male persona. In the encoding, the words pen is equates to penis.
“In the line from ‘Roastbeef.’, a plain resource makes me think of Plain Editions, the publishing company Stein and Toklas created when Stein self-published her first book Three Lives.
“In Europe, books were printed with uncut pages. When I was in college studying French literature, I often had to cut the pages of the books I read for my courses. God forbid that anyone neglected to read their assignment because all too often that meant the pages were uncut and not accessible. Can you imagine how angry the professor would get to hear someone cutting pages in class?
Alenier also provided some insight on the origins of meadow:
“If you look up the word meadow, you see this:”
“A couple of thoughts come to mind about grassland and hay. Maybe this is a stretch, but I'm thinking Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass.
“Sorry to jump ahead but the 26th subpoem of "Food" reads:”
WAY LAY VEGETABLE. (excerpt & note correction—skin not skip)
Leaves in grass and mow potatoes, have a skin, hurry you up flutter. …
“I see Walt Whitman's title (Leaves of Grass versus leaves in grass) and meadow (grass as in grassland & mow as in the origin of meadow) in ‘Leaves in grass and mow potatoes.’
“I'm also thinking of the old proverb, make hay while the sun shines because there is a heck of a lot of emphasis in stanza two on shine (3 times in stanza 2 & 1 time in stanza 3).
“What then might a meadow is useful and a cow absurd mean?
“Well, if you make hay while the sun shines, you are earning your living. That hay stands for money. If you put your cow into your hay field, there will be trouble. Here is an Xchange between two farmers:”
Farmer A: Do any of you let your cows graze in your hay field over the winter?
Lots of good things for the cows.
A couple of bad things for the hayfield:
1. The ground is softer and more grass will be pulled up by the roots. Hooves will damage some grass roots and soil compaction can result. Less grass cover can give weeds a head start next spring.
2. Manure that remains in the hayfield will make next season's hay less palatable.
Bloat can always be a problem whenever the cattle's feed changes. If you turn them into the hayfield, do it for short intervals and continue to feed dry hay. Keep some TheraBloat on hand. Maybe put out a Sweetlix Bloat Block near their water supply.
To cap off the discussion of meadow, Alenier concluded:
“And just for grins, meadow==>grassland seems to have a crass sexual association. Maybe like a romp or a roll in the hay?”
LOOKING AT THE REPETITION.
Steiny thinks the last sentence of Stanza 3 could stand some additional attention but instead of quoting it in sentence form with all the words following closely, she will break it apart as if it were a lined poem.
Any time there is a surface there is a surface
and every time there is a suggestion there is a suggestion
and every time there is silence there is silence
and every time that is languid there is that there
then and not oftener, not always, not particular,
tender and changing and external and central
and surrounded and singular and simple and the same
and the surface and the circle and the shine and the succor
and the white and the same and the better and the red
and the same and the centre and the yellow and
the tender and the better, and altogether.
This 105-word sentence repeats there is seven times making Steiny think the “message” or impression Stein wishes to impart concerns existence. This existence is accented by an alliterative run—surface, suggestion, and silence but the element of time which begins as any time but repeats thrice as every time has a stopping point in then and not oftener, not always, not particular. The location of text while it might be changing and external seems to have a sameness about it that resides in what is central or what might be the centre or the circle. Possibly this center could be the sun as indicated by words like shine and yellow.
Twice the word tender is repeated and because this is Tender Buttons, one must come to attention. The first repetition is paired—tender and changing, while the second reads the tender and the better, and altogether. Since Tender Buttons is Stein’s covenant with her partner Alice Toklas, one has to assume this is about their union, their bettering as altogether.
Participants: Karren Alenier, Rebekah Copas, Allan Keeton, Judy Meibach, Peter Treanor