Why I don’t like Gertrude Stein

“The world stands on floors”
by J.lynn Sheridan

The floor, floor board, floor-bored,
word-floor, the word-floor cored,
word-floor bored, bored, bored.

head-to-toe, my head-to-toe,
floor-bored, my head-to-toe
floor cored, word-floor corded,
words corded from word-floor.

from head to toe, head to Tankard toe:

–adored, adored meme memememe,
me word, memememe, read me,
read ME, read Me adored–

head coring head coring brain coring

* * *

The genius of Stein was that she used her words as art
in her way. She did it her way—disorienting, confusing,
puzzling. (One huge reason why us non-intellectuals strain
our brains. Seriously, my brain shut down after ten minutes
of her. Total brick wall between the little between my ears and
what I saw on the page.)

And yet,
her puzzle was intriguing, Angry smile

And yet,
she walked through the steady firm floors of convention.Angry smile

And yet,

she was able to inject humor, satire, and even some realism
inside her cubism (think Picasso.) Angry smile

And that made me angry.
Because I understood then.
I didn’t want to understand something so bizarre.

Now, when you read my poem (above), do you see it
differently? Or did you stop reading altogether?

My point exactly . . . the traditional canon of language
on which we tread gave way with Stein, messing with us,
not making an ounce of sense. And you don’t want to read it.

As Al Filreis says, “sometimes we have to just stop making sense.”

Does that make sense?


9 thoughts on “Why I don’t like Gertrude Stein

  1. Yes, thanks for comments on Stein’s later work. Frankly, was disappointed that I was unable to enjoy her poetry. Now I will go back and hopefully find some dog-eared bargains on ebay and take a fresh look at her. Thank You, Kris!

  2. I think it was unfortunate the Stein readings in the Modpo class are from her early poetry, which she later criticized, saying they were “too much fantasy.” Read her later novels, Paris France, Everybody’s Autobiography, and the Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas, and you come away with a different impression. The writing in them is still a challenge but not anymore a challenge than a sentence like this.

    1. There are times in ModPo when I feel like the academic jargon of labeling a poet/writer does more to impede our judgment of the author. I’m open to experimental writers only to the extent that they are accessible to readers. Thank you for pointing out that she herself felt her early poems were too much fantasy. We didn’t hear that in ModPo. I guess that’s the limitations of an introductory course. And yes, I will take a look at some of her other works. Thank you for suggesting them, Kris.

Speak to me of thoughts unspoken.

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