Gertrude Stein

Gertrude and Alice in Vichyland

Presented as the plenary lecture at the first meeting of the European Stein Network  in Paris on November 26, 2016. The meeting was organized by Isabelle Alfandary (Université Sorbonne Nouvelle) and Vincent Broqua (Université Paris 8). My three frames in approaching this volatile and vexing subject are factual evidence, historical context, and material text. This presentation is meant to follow up on “Gertrude Stein’s War Years; Setting the Record Straight,” a dossier I edited for Jacket2 in 2012. One of many questions I ask here: Why was Stein subjected to such virulent scorn when her family art collection was shown at the Met (with no focus on her own work) while Picabia, subject of a full-scale retrospective of his work, was not? 

Google's neural machine translation establishes 'spiritual connection' with Stein

Mark Liberman, a computational linguist who directs the Linguistic Data Consortium at the University of Pennsylvania, has been fascinated, especially in recent years, with experimental poetry. You can find his ideas and experiments at Language Log. He's been working on Stein's repetitions.

Tracie Morris, five pieces (video)

Tracie Morris performed five of her poems in honor of William J. (Billy Joe) Harris on March 11, 2017, in Brooklyn, New York. Thanks to the efforts of Dylan Leahy, we are making them available as video segments. In the order in which the videos are presented below, they are: “Blackout, 1977,” “Enclosed” (a response to Gertrude Stein’s Tender Buttons), “Morenita,” “Postcard of Parmigianino’s Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror,” and “Queens.”

The arc of our ark

Bio-poetics over the DNA rainbow

This commentary series has traced out just a few implications of bio-poetic work, and speculated on some of its futures. For all of the potential recklessness of such tampering and tinkering with genes and molecules, Steve Tomasula also imagines a “Midrash” of bio-ethics being forged, or at least illuminated, by the collective endeavors of genetic artists. Such work does much more than merely illustrate bio-tech capabilities; it performs an embodied auto-critique in which genes and bodies are put at deliberate and provocative risk. Bio-art provides us with wittily hypocritical (as well as hypercritical) risk assessments and bioethical conundrums, using the materials and the sensibility of the studio to make the “labor” in laboratory more ludic.

This commentary series has traced out just a few implications of bio-poetic work, and speculated on some of its futures. For all of the potential recklessness of such tampering and tinkering with genes and molecules, Steve Tomasula also imagines a “Midrash” of bio-ethics being forged, or at least illuminated, by the collective endeavors of genetic artists. Such work does much more than merely illustrate bio-tech capabilities; it performs an embodied auto-critique in which genes and bodies are put at deliberate and provocative risk.

You circle around like that restless sound

The erotics of transcription

Carmen McRae

Gertrude Stein wrote at night; Alice Toklas transcribed during the day. In The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas, Stein has Toklas observe: “As a matter of fact her handwriting has always been illegible and I am very often able to read it when she is not.”

Some Stein scholars  might tell you that several of her manuscripts appear to be written in both Stein’s and Toklas’ handwriting, which has led to even greater contention and consternation about authorship. But I think I might tell you that just writing something down doesn’t make you the text’s author. I also might tell you that I’ve never understood the bother around whether or not Alice meddled with Gertrude’s work. Stein’s is a writing that delights in its reading, and Toklas was her most engaged, and most welcomed, reader.

Not safe for porn

The erotic vs. the pornographic

Not this blue.

Audre Lorde’s essay “The Uses of the Erotic: The Erotic as Power” constitutes pages 53-59 in my edition of Sister Outsider. The paperback is a distinctive blue; it’s the kind of bright, medium blue you see in kindergarten posters or picture books about colors. It’s a color that always gestures: this is “Blue.” This is the color of instruction. I can always immediately locate my Sister Outsider, whether on my bookshelf or among the Jenga-like stacks of books on my floor, because of its blue.

Audre Lorde’s essay “The Uses of the Erotic: The Erotic as Power” constitutes pages 53-59 in my edition of Sister Outsider. The paperback is a distinctive blue; it’s the kind of bright, medium blue you see in kindergarten posters or picture books about colors. It’s a color that always gestures: this is “Blue.” This is the color of instruction. I can always immediately locate my Sister Outsider, whether on my bookshelf or among the Jenga-like stacks of books on my floor, because of its blue.

The fuck-you bow (PoemTalk #90)

Gertrude Stein, 'How She Bowed to Her Brother'

LISTEN TO THE SHOW

Maxe Crandall, Julia Bloch, and Sarah Dowling joined Al Filreis to talk about Gertrude Stein’s “How She Bowed to Her Brother.” It was written in late 1931. The text can be found in A Gertrude Stein Reader, edited by Ulla Dydo (564). On PennSound’s Gertrude Stein page, which has been edited and annotated by Dydo, one can hear a recording of Stein performing the first section of the three-section poem.

The thick and the slow of knowledge

On the poet-scholar

Photo courtesy Giulio Menna.

Fidelity to the shapeliness of poetry, in an academy of prose, because knowledge is inseparable, we insist, from the texture and pace of its approach. Knowledge is not front-loaded, though the presiding timeline of production demands it be so. It’s a dawning: ambient, but nonabsorptive, with myriad ports of exit and entry.

Bright arrogance, gallery B

Transduction, transposition, translation

from the notebooks of Jean-Michel Basquiat

It is a truism for the experimental translator that as Google Translate gets better, it actually gets worse.  Witness the demise of the ability to "Turn Your Google Translate Into a Beatbox."  If you follow the instructions now, you only get a perfunctory recitation of consonants, alas.

Recreate that thing!

Not everything Gertrude Stein wrote is worth calling poetry. Stein says so herself in “Poetry and Grammar,” because “for me the problem of poetry was and it began with Tender Buttons to constantly realize the thing anything so that I could recreate that thing.”[1] This pronouncement on Tender Buttons directly contrasts with her account of The Making of Americans in the same lecture and, we presume, to the present participle-filled portraits consuming Stein’s attention pre-1912 — these she would call prose.

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