Monday, August 31, 2015

Cooking with Tender Buttons Food: Roastbeef. Stanzas 18-21. Discussion 5

THE BOOK ..........................-           TENDER BUTTONS
THE SUBBOOK ...................-           FOOD
THE SUBPOEM ..................-            Roastbeef
WORD COUNT (Total)……..-           1757
STANZA(S)............................-           37
THE LEADER........................-           THE STEINY ROAD POET

Here are “Roastbeef.” stanzas 18 through 21 with a 161-word count. Among the topics addressed in this post are: the bones of contention between Gertrude Stein and her brother Leo, kitchen items or natural elements that stand in for Alice Toklas, kind as stand in for gender, Stein’s gaming and cubism, what comes in fours (e.g. winds and humors) and the four Passover questions, Apollinaire’s and Stein’s interest in the fourth dimension, and the gematria of four which points to door.

The time when there are four choices and there are four choices in a difference, the time when there are four choices there is a kind and there is a kind. There is a kind. There is a kind. Supposing there is a bone, there is a bone. Supposing there are bones. There are bones. When there are bones there is no supposing there are bones. There are bones and there is that consuming. The kindly way to feel separating is to have a space between. This shows a likeness.

Hope in gates, hope in spoons, hope in doors, hope in tables, no hope in daintiness and determination. Hope in dates.

Tin is not a can and a stove is hardly. Tin is not necessary and neither is a stretcher. Tin is never narrow and thick.

Color is in coal. Coal is outlasting roasting and a spoonful, a whole spoon that is full is not spilling. Coal any coal is copper.

“What are spoons? Could Stein be playing with words and meaning Spoonerisms?” Peter Treanor


To continue with the theme of hidden relationships that began with earlier stanzas of “Roastbeef.”, the Steiny Road Poet offers that stanza 18 with its seven repetitions of the word bone, might be pointing to the notion of bone of contention. Here’s what Peter Treanor had to say:

“I was wondering if Stein is using bone and bones in the sense of a disagreement/argument, as in ‘I’ve got a bone to pick with you.’

“Is she saying there are four choices in a difference (disagreement)? There are bones of contention that are all consuming. The best way to separate is to have some space?

“This seems to point to a row and separation from Leo, all those kinds in there, kind=alike and kin.”


While Gertrude’s failing relationship with her brother Leo may be hidden in how she presents this subject in the text of Tender Buttons, the actual hidden relationship is her marriage to Alice Toklas.  Stanzas 19 through 21 might be pointing to Toklas, who, in other discussions, particularly those about the subpoems of section 1 “Objects”, has been associated with objects in the kitchen, such as what Stein offers in these “Roastbeef.” stanzas, as spoons, tables and stove but also as the element copper.

On the subject of copper and other elements mentioned stanzas 20 and 21, here’s what Karren Alenier [a.k.a. Steiny] had to say in the ModPo discussion forum:

“I'm thinking that the burning embers of coal look like copper in color. Copper is a stand in for Toklas who is Stein's spiritual home & the bread maker.

“I think tin is also a stand in for Toklas. Tin has 10 stable isotopes which puts it above all other elements in the periodic table. It is silvery in appearance.
Isotope means at its semantic roots in the same place (in the periodic table).
That’s why I think it points to Alice. It also has a relationship with copper.”


Steiny thinks it is imperative now to address in stanza 18 Stein’s repetition of kind (four times) with the additional kindly that follows up. Steiny’s theory as developed in thinking about the use of kind in section 1 “Objects” starting with the opening subpoem “A carafe, that is a blind glass.” is that gender can be substituted for the word kind. In this case, the overpowering repetition of there is a kind means that Stein is extremely concerned with and adamant about her own gender identification. That also plays into there is a bone, which might be slang for penis. Again Stein identifying as the male partner in her marriage with Toklas relates to a hidden relationship. In the contention with Leo, he is opposed to the marriage fearing that his sister will bring shame on herself.

The repetition of kind is also amplified by the other meanings of kind (a class of, type of, agreeable, loving) as well as the root word kin (family) as Treanor points out. All of these meanings showing a likeness or similarity, resemblance, relatedness. 

There are also more abstract ways of appreciating these stanzas and some of the following comments relate to gaming, art, and ways of thinking.

Emily W commented,

“Are the four choices the face of the cube?  and the four other choices on the opposite face?”

“What I notice is that everything is concrete, solid, there in the world, except hope, except daintiness and determination, which have no hope.  I'm puzzled by ‘dates.’  Are they the food or outings?”

Alenier answered,

“Surprisingly, in the studies last year of ‘Objects,’ there were various kinds of games encountered, especially card games. What has promise is not always a sure thing. Chance comes into play.

“Maybe hope in dates is pointing to hope inundates. [Steiny asks could this be a potential Spoonerism?] There seems to be a surge of this emotional state of hope but some of these items, like gates and doors, seem to be hindrances.

“I like your idea that the four choices might be a cube. Could be dice, no? I think gamblers call dice bones. I'm going to look.”

Here Steiny stops to appreciate Emily W’s comment about seeing the four faces of a cube and how this relates to Gertrude Stein being influenced by Pablo Picasso’s new style of art that came to be known as cubism. Now back to discussion forum comments being made by Alenier:

Emily W also commented, “If you count daintiness and determination as one, then there are 6 things, perfect for dice. But there is still hope in solid things not in daintiness and determination.” 

Intrigued by this kind of game, Alenier offered:

Hope in gates, hope in spoons, hope in doors, hope in tables, no hope in daintiness and determination. Hope in dates.
“Ok, so the face of the dice show: gates, spoons, doors, tables, dates, and daintiness/determination.

“Or the face of the dice show: gates, spoons, doors, tables, daintiness, and determination with a surge of hope (not dates). It’s a little bit different game.

“So what happens if you roll gates--something obstructs you from winning as does doors. Rolling doors seems worse than gates because doors are a bigger obstruction because you usually can't see through it. Spoons seem positive, that surely you would receive something. If you roll daintiness that must be rewarding. The root meaning of dainty is excellent and worthy. But what would determination get you, an opportunity to barter?”

Allan Keeton said,

“I love this
game of hope in bones
of what is thrown

“& what comes up?

“Sudden Spoon!”

The sudden spoon is the same in no size. The sudden spoon is the wound in the decision.

Great research, Karren!

“I had no idea that dice originally
had 4 flat landable faces 
& 2 rounded ones.

“Our modern 6 flat-faced dice
map out three dimensions
a pair of opposite faces for each axis

“There is something mystical
in being unable to firmly settle
on one of these dimensions

“Something we feel in our bones—

Treanor asked, “What comes in fours?”

He answered with more questions,

“Four directions of the compass, four suits of playing cards? If the bones are dice, what game do you play with cards and dice? I found Poker Dice, online, I wonder if there are any others, maybe one where you actually play with both?
And time seems to be important in the four choices, does the amount or type of choice change with time? Is she just writing about a now when there are four choices, will there be less or more choices at another time?

“But maybe bones are referring to skeletal bones, ‘There is a bone’ is repeated twice. Is that 2 singular bones or the 1 bone mentioned twice? ‘There are  bones’ is repeated 5 times.  

“Does she mean supposing there is a bone THEN there is a bone or is she just repeating the phrase, echoing it? 

“There is a lot of ‘supposing’ (2 times) but ‘no supposing’ once. What  the reason for the switch between supposing and no supposing (there are bones) is really unclear, why is there supposing in one sentence but no supposing in the next, what is the difference in circumstances of the bones that has caused this change?

“There’s lots of switching between there is and there are, (states of the verb to be), of being and what brings things (bones) into being. Time, choice, supposing, no supposing.”

While Alenier did not have specific answers to Treanor’s questions, she offered this reading:

I'm still stuck on the 4 choices. I wanted to relate them to the 4 causes Aristotle defined but I don't think that works here. But it does have the feel of the 4 brothers on Passover dealing with why is this night different from all others. Plus the Seder plate has the symbolic bone (of contention--slavery, difference of belief, independence, manner of eating).”

Judy Meibach said,

Karren—I like how you infer the 4 from Passover—and the Seder—the liberal feminist community has taken the 4 sons and made it to the 4 daughters as well. Then there are the 4 questions—which we can elaborate for ever on—then of course, there is the childhood memory of those who said that prayer, one of the most famous—in Yiddish.  Was GS the youngest?  It is customary for the youngest to sing them—great tune!”

Mmm, Steiny wonders whether Gertrude, who was the youngest of five children, ever got to sing the four questions. She was familiar with the ritual no doubt.

Alenier added,

“I'm looking at these four Passover questions I found, and think number three was important to Gertrude given this subpoem ‘Roastbeef.’

“The Babylonian Talmud quotes four questions; why matzo is eaten, why maror is eaten, why meat is eaten exclusively roasted, and why food is dipped twice.”

Ever resourceful, Treanor discovered something about Gertrude Stein’s good friend Guillaume Apollinaire:

“Karren, I was just reading about Apollinaire and came across his four categories of Cubism four-fold division of Cubism into the Scientific, Physical, Orphic, and Instinctive categories. 

“Read more: Could this be the four choices?”

Alenier responded:

“2 quick things, Pete, about that article—Apollinaire was anti-mimetic (Stein is also described this way) and Perloff says Apollinaire understood when no one else did about the 4th dimension!”

Here Steiny will add a few words regarding anti-mimetic and the 4th dimension. Apollinaire and Stein were well matched in their creative uniqueness. Stein did not imitate because she took the advice of William James, her Harvard professor. James said if you want to be a genius, you must break away from habit. Apollinaire did not have the advantages of Stein with a huge family and exceptional education but he was a risk taker and thoroughly immersed in the experimentation of the visual art world, including Futurism, Surrealism, Cubism, and Dadaism. Steiny’s theory is that Apollinaire’s experiments excited Stein. For example, Apollinaire’s collection of poetry Alcools was written without punctuation while Stein’s Tender Buttons has some odd punctuation, like subpoem titles with periods.

Apparently the 4th dimension was popularized in 1904 by the publication of C. H. Hinton’s book, The Fourth Dimension. Steiny found a detailed essay by Jon Crabb, an art historian specializing in the fin-de-siècle. Crabb wrote:

“Whilst most suited to the visual arts, the fourth dimension also made inroads into literature, with Apollinaire and his calligrammes arguably a manifestation. Gertrude Stein with her strikingly visual, mentally disorienting poetry was also accused of writing under its influence; something she refuted in an interview with the Atlantic Monthly in 1935: “Somebody has said that I myself am striving for a fourth dimension in literature. I am striving for nothing of the sort and I am not striving at all but only gradually growing and becoming steadily more aware of the way things can be felt and known in words.” If nothing else, the refutation at least indicates the idea’s long-lasting presence in artistic circles.”

Keeton responded:

“There are 
the 4 elements
the 4 humors
the 4 winds
the 4 evangelists
these are all of a kind”

Treanor countered,
“Oh so many things in groups of four, we are spoiled for choice. Four is the only number with the same number of characters in its name as the number it denotes. Form and function in harmony with four.”

Taking a look at Jewish numerology, Steiny found the following on the number four: 

4-Four is a recurrent number in both exoteric and esoteric Jewish traditions. The Passover Seder isparticularly structured around fours: the Four Questions, the Four Sons, and four cups of wine. There are four cardinal directions and there are four Matriarchs. Four is also a common factor in esoteric interpretations: four angels surround the Throne of Glory, there are four kingdoms of the eschaton, and the famous four Sages who enter Paradise.

The number 4 derives its meaning from creation. On the fourth day of what is called 'creation week' God completed the material universe. On this day he brought into existence our sun, the moon, and all the stars (Genesis 1:14 - 19). Their purpose was not only to give off light, but also to divide the day from the night on earth, thus becoming a basic demarcation of time. They were also made to be a type of signal that would mark off the days, years and seasons.

In Jewish numerology (gematria), four is associated with the letter dalet which means door or opening.

Stein seemed to like the number four and later in her writing career, she had such titles for her work as Four Saints in Three Acts and Four in America.

Participants: Karren Alenier, Allan Keeton, Judy Meibach, Peter Treanor, Emily W

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