Friday, March 25, 2016

Cooking with Tender Buttons Food: Milk. (subpoem 6)

THE BOOK ..........................-           TENDER BUTTONS
THE SUBBOOK ...................-           FOOD
THE SUBPOEM ...................-           Milk
WORD COUNT (Total)……...-                111
STANZA(S)............................-             7
THE LEADER........................-           THE STEINY ROAD POET

“Milk.” is the sixth subpoem of Tender Buttons section 2 Food. There are two Milk subpoems and this is the first.

Among the topics discussed for this subpoem were: what happened at the first Thanksgiving celebration; hardship, afflictions/ illness; pregnancy & birth; games—golf & guessing; measurement; food & wordplay; history of golf, and the settlement movement.


A white egg and a colored pan and a cabbage showing settlement, a constant increase.

A cold in a nose, a single cold nose makes an excuse. Two are more necessary.

All the goods are stolen, all the blisters are in the cup.

Cooking, cooking is the recognition between sudden and nearly sudden very little and all large holes.

A real pint, one that is open and closed and in the middle is so bad.

Tender colds, seen eye holders, all work, the best of change, the meaning, the dark red, all this and bitten, really bitten.

Guessing again and golfing again and the best men, the very best men.

Did you notice all the words with the letter o? …It's a kind of beholding, a seeing with awe, no?” Karren Alenier


Subpoem 6 “Milk” elicited lots of different thoughts on what it was about. Karren Alenier began the conversation by saying that “Stein connects ‘Milk.’ to ‘Cranberries.’ with the word settlement” and continued:

Hardship seems to be a big theme in this subpoem. Being sick with a cold makes me think of that early Thanksgiving where the settlers were suffering from starvation until they got some help from the native Americans and then things changed.”

The implication is that hardship points to the first Thanksgiving celebration.

Teri Rife further explored the issue of illness:

“As to the colds. From "Sugar:"
The line which sets sprinkling to be a remedy is beside the best cold. [stanza 8 of subpoem 6 “Sugar.”]

“And in this subpoem we have:”
A cold in a nose, a single cold nose makes an excuse. Two are more necessary. [stanza 2 of subpoem 6 “Milk.”]

Tender colds, seen eye holders, all work, the best of change, the meaning, the dark red, all this and bitten, really bitten. [stanza 6 of subpoem 6 “Milk.”]

“So, it seems that perhaps a bug has gotten into the system (‘bitten, really bitten’) and the result is a cold:  a cold IN a nose and a cold nose, both (two are more necessary.)  I love the fact that makes an excuse sounds so much like ‘makes an achoo!’ And the word necessary sounds rather sneezy, too.

“This bite, making the skin dark red, may be from a flu bug, or a love bug, or a writing bug (akin to a ‘travel bug’—something which cannot be ignored.  If the love bug which has bitten Stein has given her tender colds (the kind which induce her to write TB), then I can see the meaning of all this:  the best of change, all work, maybe even seen eye holders (spectacles?).  Also, Alice would Tend-her colds, would she not?”

Mary Armour added:

... all the blisters are in the cup

“And I find myself with slight repugnance thinking of the old medical tradition, found in the Victorian medical practice Stein would have known, of cupping boils or blisters. Cupping and blistering were ways of excising infection, cupping worked by creating a suction on the skin. Pus coming out as a milky fluid? And the blisters in the cup, the skin blistering from application of the heated cup.”


Talking about cups brings up measurements—Stein always the scientist is never far from measuring things. Here’s Alenier on this subject:

“Measurement comes into play in this subpoem with these words:
increase and change
cup and pint
very little and all large

“There are also contrasts:
sudden and nearly sudden
open and closed


Changing directions Alenier also commented about a pregnancy and birth theme:

“These words and phrases make me think of pregnancy and birth of a baby:
constant increase
Two are more necessary
nearly sudden very little and all large holes
a real pint
the dark red (maybe bloody show?)”

Seeing connections between “Sugar.”, “Cranberries.”, and “Milk.”, Rife noticed that “the blisters, sudden, red and bitten (teeth & dog—the monster's back).  And guessing is a game, just as golf is.

While Alenier saw the return of the monster, she said this:

“Babies can be little monsters especially as they start to get teeth and don't know the power of teeth.

“If you look at Stanza 6, it begins with the word tender:”

Tender colds, seen eye holders, all work, the best of change, the meaning, the dark red, all this and bitten, really bitten. 

“As we have previously discussed, the book title Tender Buttons could be referring to belly buttons and because this long poem is about the marriage troth between Gertrude and Alice that includes having babies—these babies are Stein's books, I think ‘Milk.’ is particularly about babies.”


Catching up on Mary Armour’s comment about blisters, Alenier countered:

Blister as bubble, as in balloon where that leads to ideas floating out of the cup of Stein's head!

“Also blister as the pregnant bump and this goes with the bubble-balloon of creation-imagination.”

These comments led to Rife moving from blisters to cooking:

“The bump—both baby and writer's!

“Been thinking about blisters and cooking (burns) and blisters and working (rubbing).  Pressing too hard on your writing instrument results in a dark red blister/bump.  (I speak from personal experience.)  All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.

“As to various food items and cooking, I've been looking at white egg (egg white), cabbage, goods, and stolen (stollen?) and lots of words associated with the cooking process implements & the measurements Karren mentioned above (pan, cup, pint, (pot)holders), and chemistry (settlement, constant increase, blisterssudden and nearly sudden, very little and all large holes, the best of change.)

“It seems there might be another instance here of the word play with double o's in words (cooking, cooking) coupled with a phrase like "seen eye holders." Are the double ee's in seen the representatives of the two eyes in the holders?  Fun.

“There are pairs of words in the "Cooking" sentence.  1) Cooking, sudden, very little (holes) and 2) Cooking, nearly sudden, all large holes.  Does this refer to rising time prior to baking the stollen resulting in a more or less airy bread structure? The ingredients of stollen include milk, eggs, honey (sugar), yeast, all sorts of dried or candied fruits—all the goods? And is there more word play with all the goods and so bad?  You don't want to put the milk from the pint that has been opened and closed so much that it has gone bad.

“But where does the cabbage fit it?  Eggs and cabbage cooked together do make a good dish, and there is such a thing as a cabbage soufflé. There are some physical features of the cabbage plant that relate to language in this subpoem:  parts that are ovate and cup-shaped leaves.  This seems rather flimsy, though.

“Who are the best men?  Are they the men Gertrude admires—men she would have stand-up for her at her wedding to Alice?”

To this, Alenier asked,

“Did you notice all the words with the letter o?
colored, constant, cold, nose, two, more, goods, stolen, cooking, holes, one, open, closed, so, holders, work, golfing

“It's a kind of beholding, a seeing with awe, no?”

Rife crooned:
OOO, the o's.  Especially the holes, since o's literally look like holes, don't they?  And "hol(e)-ders"--beholders, as you say.”

Alenier pushed back:
I'm thinking about those holes and what goes in them. 

“At the end we have golfing and men. white golf ball in the cup. Men with their pen is applied to the pap-[h]er! Hehe!”

Rife mused:

“Ah, yes. I should have gotten the white ball in the cup. That's what the golfers say they're doing. The genius is re-thinking (cooking is the re-cognition between: 1) sudden and nearly sudden, 2) very little and all large holes) language and the very best men are on the golf course, occupied with chasing around the little white ball!”

Alenier rejoined:
“Nice, Teri, that connection about the cooking-re-cognition to these balls.

“Now that makes me think that Stein is making fun of men who are chasing their balls! Hehe! Also men protect their anatomical balls with a cup, no?”
In a more serious mood, Alenier said,
“Something that occurred to me is that ‘Milk.’ is one of two and the first category in the FOOD table of contents

“I think this makes the tie to conception—baby, mother's milk, Stein's book babies—all that much stronger.”

Steiny thinks given all the o’s and the holes, maybe we should be asking how much can the reader swallow?

Steiny will end by adding notes (collected from Wikipedia) on golf and the Settlement Movement.

1900—Golf is played at the Paris Olympic Games. Twenty-two participants took part (12 men and 10 women) from four countries who competed in 36-hole individual stroke play events for men and women. The women’s Olympic champion was Margaret Abbot (USA) and Charles Sands (USA) was the men’s champion.1901 The rubber cored Haskell ball is introduced. It changed the way the game was played. The Haskell ball travelled farther than the old gutta-percha ball and cost considerably less because it could be mass produced. The game’s popularity surged in response.

1904—Golf is played for the second time in the Olympic Games in St Louis. Only men’s competitions were staged. (A team event of 36 holes stroke play won by the United States of America’s team and an individual event was won by George Lyon from Canada).

The settlement movement was a reformist social movement, beginning in the 1880s and peaking around the 1920s in England and the US, with a goal of getting the rich and poor in society to live more closely together in an interdependent community. Its main object was the establishment of "settlement houses" in poor urban areas, in which volunteer middle-class "settlement workers" would live, hoping to share knowledge and culture with, and alleviate the poverty of, their low-income neighbors. The "settlement houses" provided services such as daycare, education, and healthcare to improve the lives of the poor in these area

The most famous settlement house in the United States is Chicago's Hull House, founded by Jane Addams and Ellen Gates Starr in 1889 after Addams visited Toynbee Hall within the previous two years. Hull House, though, was not a religious based organization. It focused on providing education and recreational facilities for European immigrant women and children.[2] Lenox Hill Neighborhood House, founded in 1894, Friendly Inn Settlement House, founded in 1874, Henry Street Settlement, founded in 1893, Hiram House, founded in 1896, and University Settlement House, founded in 1886 and the oldest in the United States, were, like Hull House, important sites for social reform. United Neighborhood Houses of New York is the federation of 38 settlement houses in New York City.[5] These and other settlement houses inspired the establishment of settlement schools to serve isolated rural communities in Appalachia.[c By 1913, there were 413 settlements in 32 states.[6]

In 1910, Louise Marshall founded The Cabbage Patch Settlement House with the help of her community, church, and family. Named for the Louisville neighborhood where it was originally established, The Cabbage Patch was formed in the spirit of Christian love as a safe haven for children in the neighborhood to play, grow, and learn. The Cabbage Patch quickly grew, gaining continued support from the Louisville community.

The Buttons Collective discussed Hull House in “It Was Black, Black Took.”

Participants: Karren Alenier, Mary Armour, Teri Rife

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