A version of this paper by Edward Burns, titled “So I Went on Looking at Pictures: Gertrude Stein’s Last Decade,” was delivered as part of Sundays at the Met, April 29, 2012, in conjunction with the exhibition The Steins Collect.
Jackson Mac Low made available several sections of his Stein series on his EPC page. I sometimes introduce my students to this series by reading and discussing with them number 7, titled “Very Pleasant Soiling.” Mac Low’s notes, as usual, describe the process by which this (and other) pieces in the series were composed:
Jules most recently wrote about poetry, dissent, and the Olympics, and in this capacity, the late South African poet Dennis Brutus was legendary. Despite the fact Brutus said he was “never a good athlete,” he turned to sports as a focus for his activism (“I was reasonably good at organizing,” he explained), and began organizing sports competitions in the 1940s at the high school where he taught (Brutus 38). Through his affiliation with a number of anti-apartheid activists, he homed in on the Olympics with his sports-organizing talents, finding a contradiction between the Olympic charter (which forbade racial discrimination by participating countries) and the apartheid government of South Africa.
On October 11, 1990, Jackson Mac Low read from Gertrude Stein's Tender Buttons for seven minutes. You'll hear the voice of Charles Bernstein as he and others (members of Bernstein's class at Buffalo at the time) scramble to find a copy of the Stein. Then Mac Low spent a few minutes discussing the "Objects" section.
Compare two reviews of Alfred Kreymborg's Troubador, a chatty group-bio/memoir of the high-flying modernists of Europe and New York in the late 1910s and early '20s. One is Gertrude Stein's book review published in Ex Libris, a magazine put out in Paris. The other, written by Mark Van Doren, was published in the Nation. For a clearer view of the review as it appeared in print, click here.
The essay below will serve as the introduction to the Green Integer publication, due out in early 2007, of The PIP Gertrude Stein Awards in Innovative Poetry in English 2005-2006. I felt that readers of Jacket might be interested in this introduction because of my comments on the current reception by the larger newspapers, awards, and prizes concerning what might be described as innovative or — I think a far better term — exploratory poetic and poetics. Obviously, most of the writers of the kind of poetry with which I am concerned have long ago recognized the absence of discussion and acceptance of their poetry in the venues I describe; but I think it is important to reiterate the increasing hostility of the national media and other self-proclaimed arbiters of contemporary poetry to the wide range of poetic writing today—not only in the US, but throughout the world in English. To me it still remains utterly shocking—particularly because it has been so longstanding — that publications such as The New York Times Book Review, Los Angeles Times Book Review, the Times Literary Supplement, the National Book Award, the Pulitzer Prize, and National Book Critics Circle Award and numerous other places available for reviews and recognition of poetry remain so narrowly focused in their definitions of poetic expression.
Kisses can kiss us A duck a hen and fishes, followed by wishes. Happy little pair.
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I adore this little poem. It's got a lot of Stein in it — and by that I suppose I mean that it's teachable in an introduction to Stein overall. Back in 1999 I recorded a short improvised reading of the poem with Shawn Walker and have now converted it to mp3 and added it to the English 88 intro to modernism pages.
Night of the living linguistic dead. That's the essence of Sherwood Anderson's gone-awry comments on the writing of Gertrude Stein: “Every artist working with words as his medium must at times be profoundly irritated by what seems the limitations of his medium. What things does he not wish to create with words! There is the mind of the reader before him and he would like to create in that reader's mind a whole new world of sensations, or rather one might better say he would like to call back into life all of the dead and sleeping senses.”
Walter Cronkite met Gertrude Stein. Here it is, as reported by the NY Times:
A 1935 profile of Gertrude Stein from The Daily Texan, unearthed by the student newspaper of the University of Texas at Austin and published at its Web site, was written by Walter Cronkite, who was an 18-year-old undergraduate at the university when he wrote it. (Mr. Cronkite’s memorial service was on Thursday; a report by Brian Stelter is here.)
Speaking to Stein in advance of her appearance at the university’s Hogg Auditorium on March 22, 1935, Mr. Cronkite wrote that, even though he “imposed upon her at a late hour last night,” the author was “genuine — the real thing in person. Her thinking is certainly straightforward; her speech is the same.”
After recording her attire (“a mannish blouse, a tweed skirt, a peculiar but attractive vest affair, and comfortable looking shoes”), Mr. Cronkite talked with her about the proper role of the writer and the impact of the Great Depression, then in its sixth year.