Gertrude Stein

American poetry and political defeat

by Michael Ruby

IN THE first election year that mattered to me, 1968, Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy were assassinated, my country killed hundreds of thousands of people in Southeast Asia, and Richard Nixon was elected president. In the decades that followed, I have always been unhappy with the leadership and direction of this country, usually very unhappy. 

 

Michael Ruby

 I was born a believer in peace. I say fight for the right.
Be a martyr and live. Be a coward and die.

— Susan B. Anthony speaking
in Gertrude Stein’s
“The Mother of Us All”

Episode 6: Bernadette Mayer

Bernadette Mayer smiling at the camera with her hair in braids
Photo of Bernadette Mayer courtesy of Walker Art Center.

LISTEN TO THE SHOW

Bernadette Mayer, whose poetry is included in the Rail Park, is the author of over thirty books, including Midwinter DayThe Golden Book of Words, UtopiaStudying Hunger, and Sonnets, to name just a few. Her most recent book is Work and Days.

Episode 2: Sawako Nakayasu

Photo of Sawako Nakayasu reading at a microphone.

Sawako Nakayasu was born in Japan and raised in the US; she has also lived in France and China along the way. Her most recent books are The Ants (Les Figues Press, 2014), and Texture Notes (Letter Machine, 2010), and recent translations include The Collected Poems of Sagawa Chika (Canarium Books, 2015) and Tatsumi Hijikata’s Costume en Face (Ugly Duckling Presse, 2015).

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.

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