All entries for Thursday 08 February 2007

February 08, 2007


                                   Rose Garden by Klee

a rose is a rose is a rose

In ‘Explaining a rose is a rose is a rose’, Gertrude Stein commends a poetics of silence in that she demands an absence of ‘worn out literary words’. (54) She writes about how the poet must ‘work in the excitingness of pure being; he has to get back that intensity into the language’. Ironically, in ‘hundreds of poems about roses [...] you know in your bones that the rose is not there’ yet in ‘a rose is a rose is a rose’, Stein claims that ‘the rose is red for the first time in English poetry for a hundred years’. (54 – 55) An absence of description becomes a presence.

Stein is sometimes accused of being obscure and nonsensical. Even her editor, AJ Fifield found her experimental style challenging. When rejecting one of her submissions, he wrote:

I am only one, only one, only one. Only one life to live, only sixty minutes in one hour. Only one pair of eyes. Only one brain. Only one being. Being only one, having only one pair of eyes, having only one time, having only one life, I cannot read your manuscript three or four times. Not even one time. Only one look, only one look is enough. Hardly one copy would sell here. Hardly one. Hardly one.

However, you might like to examine the quotations below. What meanings can you discover in them? How large is the space for interpretation? How do you feel about the use of vocabulary and subversion of grammatical rules?

A silence is no more than occasional. It respects understanding and salt and even a rope. (‘France’)

Silence which makes silence gives that sense to all there is, silence which has light and water and vision and appetite and result and a motion and more exaggeration and no recklessness, silence which is there is not disturbed by expression. (‘France’)

What comes out of silence. What comes out of silence is that which having usefulness, that nature and fashion is not shown to be managed by the combination. (‘France’)

Surely silence is sustained and the change is sudden.(‘England’)

Silence is so windowful. (What Happened)

Gertrude Stein

by Mina Loy


of the laboratory

of vocabulary

she crushed

the tonnage

of consciousness

congealed to phrases

to extract

a radium of the word.

Nothing Elegant

by Gertrude Stein

A charm a single charm is doubtful. If the red is rose and there is a gate surrounding it, if inside is let in and there places change then certainly something is upright. It is earnest.

Poetry and Culture

The Dutch Settlers by J M Basquiet

Read these quotations and you might like to consider the questions that follow:

Even today the culture industry dresses works of art like political slogans and forces them on a resistant public at reduced prices; they are as accessible for public enjoyment as a park. […] Culture is a paradoxical commodity. So completely is it subject to the law of exchange that it can no longer be exchanged; it is so blindly consumed in use that it can no longer be used. -Max Horkheimer and Theodor W. Adorno, Dialectic of Enlightenment

Thinkers like Richard Hoggart, Raymond Williams, and E.P. Thompson came to see culture as a means of resistance to capitalism. If illiteracy was a way of keeping the poor and working people away from intellectual instruments that might impel rebellion, literacy in the form of clandestine pamphlets and underground newspapers was a way of maintaining alternative perspectives to those demanded by the progress of industrial capitalism and the subsumption of the population by factory labor. -Julie Rivkin and Michael Ryan, “The Politics of Culture”

[…] to take up arms to dominate a people is, above all, to take up arms to destroy, or at least to neutralise, to paralyse its cultural life. […] This for example is the case with the so-called theory of progressive assimilation of native populations, which turns out to be only a more or less violent attempt to deny the culture of the people in question. -Amilcar Cabralcar, Return to the Source

Look at the images in the Zionist films of the thirties: the land is always displayed as empty. Insofar as Arabs are present, they are acknowledged only as camels and keepers walking across the screen at one moment or another to supply a kind of exotic local colour: This is not a field in the Ukraine, this is the exotic East. […] And the same idea occurs in America: the pioneering spirit, errand into the wilderness, the obliteration of another society, and the continual sense of enterprise, that enterprise is good for its own sake, especially because a Book says so. It doesn’t matter that the enterprise means killing people, bombing apartment houses, emptying villages. But it’s enterprise of a particular kind, the kind associated with new settler society. And with it goes a tremendous hostility to traditional societies which are posited as backward, primitive, reactionary, and so on: Islam for example. -Edward Said, Power, Politics and Culture

It is the outward looking, expansive gaze which makes possible the interaction with a ‘significant other’, a foreign culture in which gifts for the future of one’s own culture may be located, and in which an illuminating reflection of one’s own identity (or desired identity) may be glimpsed. That foreign culture may be geographically or linguistically or temporarily ‘other’ or a combination of these. -Robert Crawford, Identifying Poets

How to tear a minor literature away from its own language, allowing it to challenge the language and making it follow a sober revolutionary path? How to become a nomad and an immigrant [...] in relation to one’s own language? -Deleuze and Guattari, Kafka: Towards a Minor Literature


• How can poets and poetry reach the ordinary citizen and to what end?
• How does poetry help define or redefine “community” or “culture”, a term that has lost meaning and significance by virtue of its overuse?
• Can poetry transform suffering? Can it be useful in creating unity; does it have value as a tool for change?
• How has poetry influenced various kinds of communities—the disabled, the oppressed, the incarcerated, the gifted, the professional, and the cleric—by way of insight, balm, or transcendence?
• What role does poetry play in defining identities and concerns of ethnic groups within a given community?
• How do poets help to make silent voices heard, and what other opportunities do we have to bring poetry to the public?

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Creative Research Blog

Please note that I also have a blog for ideas and research at:

Women Writing Rape

See this new blog set up to coincide with the symposium, Women Writing Rape: Literary and Theoretical Narratives of Sexual Violence

Practice of Poetry Seminar:

Thursdays 9 – 12 noon in the Mead Gallery, Warwick Art Centre

REMINDER: When bringing poems to be workshopped in class, it would be great to bring extra copies so that we can all see the poem on the page.

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