Gertrude Stein

Lineated time

Some thoughts on the line in poetry

Prague astronomical clock. Photo by Andrew Shiva.

Two problems, first of beginning, then of cohering, beset me as I worried the topic of this talk. Beginning and cohering, obviously, elementary features of typical expository forms, but problematic, more so for a topic that one finds, at the same time, fundamental and elusive, elusive because fundamental, in one’s own practice of reading and writing.

Two problems, first of beginning, then of cohering, beset me as I worried the topic of this talk. Beginning and cohering, obviously, elementary features of typical expository forms, but problematic, more so for a topic that one finds, at the same time, fundamental and elusive, elusive because fundamental, in one’s own practice of reading and writing.

But here are three thoughts to possibly begin with:

Stein's propagandistic potential

A note on Gertrude Stein's 'La langue française' and 'Patrie'

Portrait of Gertrude Stein with American flag by Carl Van Vechten, January 4, 1935, from the Van Vechten Collection at the Library of Congress, via Wikimedia Commons.

In compliance with the request Stein had received from Masson via de Rochemont, “La langue française” is “non political” insofar as it makes no direct mention of any overtly political issues, events, or specific persons. In approaching her requested subject — “the importance or prestige of the French language” — Stein in “La langue française”applies a vocabulary that has a long history in the autodiscourse of the French language (clarity, truth, profundity, etc.). 

Editorial note: This piece is intended to be a companion to Logan Esdale’s contribution to this dossier, which can be found here.

Stein comix

by Kyriakos Mavridis

A page from Kyriakos Mavridis’s comics rendering of a Stein prose-poem

Kyriakos Mavridis participated in ModPo (a free open noncredit online course on modern and contemporary American poetry), where among the Gertrude Stein readings we find a short prose poem called “Let Us Describe.” Its ending, an accident of descriptiveness gone thus awry, writes an automobile accident that seems to have occurred on wet rural French roads one stormy night. 

The comix Kyriakos has created was published in a comic album called Windy Nights (along with four other comic adaptations of poems /texts — all in Greek). Here is the link.
 
The other four comics are of two texts by Kyriakos (Arrival and Close the window, written originally in Greek), one of Lorca’s (The Rider’s Song) and the last one of an untitled poem by Nazim Hikmet (title of the comic: Determined). Kyriakos has now added English versions of these comics at his website: Windy Nights
 
In a recent note, Kyriakos generously observed: “I am sending you this email because your lectures in ModPo (I was an online student back in 2013) inspired me my adaptation of Let Us Describe, which in turn inspired the rest of the works in this comic album. It was very important for me and I am really grateful to you.”

Begin again

“Many knew that no matter what they did, if they moved through a public space, it would have to be deliberate, and their bodies would be read as a statement.” Above: image of a public square in Florence by Samuli Lintula, via Wikimedia Commons.

Think back to the last time you marched — when you moved deliberately through a public space, when you used your body not just to get from one place to another but to be a statement, when you had to be keenly aware of the larger body you moved within and the body you moved against. If you’ve never marched before, go out now and try it. Now think back. Begin again. 

Think back to the last time you marched — when you moved deliberately through a public space, when you used your body not just to get from one place to another but to be a statement, when you had to be keenly aware of the larger body you moved within and the body you moved against. If you’ve never marched before, go out now and try it. Now think back. Begin again. Be aware of your body in this public space. Are you cold? Are you hungry? Do you carry a sign? Is it heavy? Does it block the view of the people behind you? Are you walking?

Ulla Dydo (1925–2017)

Ulla Dydo © 2009 by Star Black. Used by permission.

Ulla Dydo, the preeminent Gertrude Stein scholar of our time, died on September 10, 2017 in New York. 

Ursula Elisabeth Eder was born in Zurich on February 4, 1925. Her mother was Jeanne Eder-Schwyzer (1894–1957), a Swiss women’s rights activist and president of the International Council of Women. Her father was Professor Robert Eder (1885–1944). Dydo is survived by her wife, new music pianist Nurit Tilles (whom she met more than a decade ago); a son, Malcolm, from her first marriage to economist John Stephen Dydo (1922–2004) (whom she married in Manhattan in 1963 — the marriage dissolved within a decade); and a grandaughter. 

Dydo attended the University of Zurich (1944–45), where she majored in English, as well as University College, London (1946) and received an MA at Bryn Mawr in 1948. She attended the University of Wisconsin, Madison, from 1948 to 1952, getting her PhD in 1955. Her dissertation was on the poetry of Allen Tate. 

Gertrude and Alice in Vichyland — Charles Bernstein

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.

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