I have only read snippets of Gertrude Stein. Her work is not easy to read, and it is claimed that her exceptionally long major opus 'The Making of Americans' has only been read cover-to-cover by about half a dozen people.
Stein's popularity, like the length of women's skirts, rises and falls in phases. At present she's probably not over popular.
The one piece of work that always fascinated me was her libretto to Virgil Thomson's 1928 opera 'Four Saints in Three Acts'. A pure Dada, possibly Bauhaus influenced, stream of consciousness work, that accompanied Thomson's music, rather than enhanced it.
I can't remember when or where I first encountered this particular 'poem'; maybe at Art College, or more likely through the ICA (of which I was a member in the late 60's, when Concrete Poetry was at its most popular).
Anyway, here below is the most well known aria (poem), which appealed to me all those years ago. What I see in it now is another question!
Pigeons on the grass alas
Pigeons on the grass alas. Short longer grass short longer longer shorter yellow grass. Pigeons large pigeons on the shorter longer yellow grass alas pigeons on the grass.
If they were not pigeons what were they
If they were not pigeons on the grass alas what were they. He had heard of a third and he asked about it it was a magpie in the sky
If a magpie in the sky on the sky cannot cry if the pigeon on the grass alas can alas and to pass the pigeon on the grass alas and the magpie in the sky on the sky and to try alas on the grass alas the pigeon on the grass the pigeon on the grass and alas
They might be very well they might be very well very well they might be
Let Lucy Lily Lily Lucy Lucy let Lucy Lucy Lily Lily Lily Lily Lily let Lily Lucy Lucy let Lily. Let Lucy Lily
(me) I hope I've managed to type all that correctly. Enjoy (if you can).
Well it made us go and do some research on Gertrude Stein, (of whom we had never heard) which only raised a lot more questions...I'm in the 'gibberish' camp, but as is so often the case in this world the true genius lay in convincing people it is meaningful. (Emperor's new clothes....) Possibly her success in that was enhanced by the company she kept, many of whom were true genius.ReplyDelete
And her collection of paintings showed very avant garde taste.Delete
All I know of her is that her art collection survived WW2 in Paris, wasn't taken by the Germans and she was said to be a Nazi sympathizer and admired Hitler. I didn't know she had written this poetry.ReplyDelete
She left her entire collection of paintings to Alice Toklas, but Stein's family got there first and took them all.Delete
As a Jew living in Paris, maybe it was circumspect to announce admiration for Hitler.
True. But I remember she had a fairly dodgy friend big nib with the Nazis.Delete
They had friends all over; even in the UK. Some people have a strange view of life.Delete
This comment has been removed by the author.ReplyDelete
Taking sides in warfare is always dodgy; especially when you side with the baddies.Delete
I've only heard of her through Woody Allen. He mentions her in his stand-up comedy and she is a character (played by Cathy Bates) in his film Midnight in Paris.ReplyDelete
I have mostly known of her through her art collection, but she thought of herself as a poet and writer.Delete
Sorry, but I will put this with hardcore rap music.ReplyDelete
I'm with you about Rap 'Music'.Delete
I suppose that it has something to do with birds on the ground and birds in the sky and the fact that no one questions their belonging to where ever they might be...But be born a woman? Back in her day, people had very strong opinions of where women belonged.ReplyDelete
You may be right, but I suppose we'll never know. She would no doubt have said that whatever it meant to anyone was fine with her.Delete
That's actually a wonderful idea - that words fall differently on different ears and it is fine.Delete
She never was my 'cup of tea' and this 'poem' doesn't make me any more enthusiastic about her work.ReplyDelete
She's not going into my book of favourites, but I always enjoy innovation, and experimentation.Delete
Alas, I really don't like pigeons.ReplyDelete
Not even roasted?Delete
I love your variety! Thanks. Though not my 'cup of tea' I do enjoy odd people and people who have their own points of view - even when I don't agree with 'em. Sometimes, I find I actually learn something new - or at least reaffirm that my own view is best - as a result of the exposure. Again, thanks!ReplyDelete
Thank you Tim. I do try to be as varied as possible. GS was certainly an interesting woman. I wonder if she's more appreciated in Europe than at home in the US? I believe she spent most of her life here in France; just as I have!Delete
She had a fringe to die forReplyDelete
She had more hair than me!Delete
In my humble opinion, Gertrude needed a bit of guidance when it came to writing poetry because "Pigeons on the grass" is not good (I had to self-censor here).ReplyDelete
She skipped school the day they studied 'rhyming'.Delete
Her art collection and the company she kept were more appealing than her poetry. That said, she led her life, her way.ReplyDelete
I certainly think that was the most interesting side of her life. Her art collection was 'visionary'.Delete
I confess I have not read any Stein. A quotation from her work ("there isn't any there there") became ubiquitous several years ago because of politicians and I became quite tired of hearing it. I did see a special exhibit about her art collection a number of years ago at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, which I enjoyed.ReplyDelete
We mustn't forget that she also coined the word 'Gay' for meaning homosexual. She would have been amused to know that it is now accepted universally.Delete
Decades ago when I was at University I played in the pit orchestra for a production of this sung by the University Opera students. It seemed rather tongue in cheek and I quite enjoyed it. -A.K.ReplyDelete