Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Gertrude Stein

What way to consider to the relationship between painting and poetry at this time is think of them as homologous arts---both foregrounding the materiality of the medium--paint/words--and obscuring the content, or referent. Consider how these two poems from 1914 function structurally:


A MOUNTED UMBRELLA

by: Gertrude Stein (1874-1946)

      HAT was the use of not leaving it there where it would hang what was the use if there was no chance of ever seeing it come there and show that it was handsome and right in the way it showed it. The lesson is to learn that it does show it, that it shows it and that nothing, that there is nothing, that there is no more to do about it and just so much more is there plenty of reason for making an exchange.


A LONG DRESS

by: Gertrude Stein (1874-1946)

      HAT is the current that makes machinery, that makes it crackle, what is the current that presents a long line and a necessary waist. What is this current.
      What is the wind, what is it.
      Where is the serene length, it is there and a dark place is not a dark place, only a white and red are black, only a yellow and green are blue, a pink is scarlet, a bow is every color. A line distinguishes it. A line just distinguishes it.

3 comments:

m said...
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Jenna said...

A Long Dress seems to play with standards versus breaking the constraints of what is expected, and of language. The lack of structure in this poem, and is resemblance to prose, echoes these contrasts. Additionally, the juxtapositions between flow and abrupt interruptions, such as the “long line and a necessary waist,” hints at an annoyance toward structure and necessity. Similarly, the constraints of language in describing aesthetics like color are challenged, suggesting that things are not always as they meet the eye. For example, “a bow is every color.” Stein is perhaps indicating that attempting to describe a visual aesthetic through words is futile and cannot do justice. Perhaps painting would be a more adequate form of representation. Interestingly, this latter part of the poem is very discontinuous from the first part of the poem, which considers a “current” that must be taken to be electricity. Perhaps Stein is suggesting that the standardization of industry through machinery and factory production further reinforces giving in to these constraints.

-Jenna Sopfe

m said...

A LONG DRESS structurally attempts to imitate and convey the movement and characteristics of a dress in motion. While reading the poem, one can imagine a women walking home in a long dress. The narrator of the poem is the dress itself, that seems to wonder aloud about its identity.

The first sentence is the dress's attempt to understand its origins. The machinery that crackles is implied to be the sewing machine/factory that created the dress. The constant pauses serves to represent the "crackle" and pauses in the creation of the dress from the machine.

Next, the inconsistent grammer parallels the movement of the dress as it blows in the wind. The first sentence of the poem is long and free-flowing as the dress "thinks," while the second sentence is short. This can be interpreted as the dress being blown smoothly in one direction, only to be snatched back in the opposite direction unexpectedly, causing it to wonder "what is the wind, what is it."

The fourth sentence observes the different colors of the dress in the sun, where the colors trick the eye into seeing one color only to suddenly become another color. Stein tries to capture the optical illusion, the magic of the dress, in words.

The last two sentences serve two purposes. It parallels the "line that distinguishes it" as the first line is one straight sentence. While the second line reiterates it by seperating "a line" from the rest of the sentence, emphasizing the line of the dress that characterizes its length.

-Michelle Cheng