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.

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  1. Marie Curie? I like science and poetry – science and poetry where the scientific language doesn’t take-over w/ the poet’s hyperness. The layout appeals fantastically – it reminds me of a camera, or a series of photographs which I am being forced to flick through slowly (and hence, savour.) The last line is almost edible – I wish I could come up with stuff like that! Also, the way it is not ‘the’ radium, but ‘a’ radium; that makes me smile.

    Hope life’s good for you and you’re not drowned under paper too much Zoe, take care,

    08 Mar 2007, 19:56

  2. Hi Katie,

    I’m glad that you like the poem. Yes Loy is describing Stein as a ‘Marie Curie’. You’re exactly right and you describe the poem beautifully. Meanwhile, what are you writing at the moment?

    09 Mar 2007, 08:09

  3. Hi, sorry this reply is so very late, in future I shall tick the ‘watch this entry…’ box!

    That’s why I like blogs where people post poems – sort of random anthologies, and there’s generally something new. Plus, because you link the quotes and poems and provide background info it makes me think a little more. I think I should find some more of Mina Loy, that poem is great! At the moment, I’m trying to finalise a speech which I supposed to be speaking this Saturday, at the town hall! – So it is rather urgent.

    Poetry-wise, there’s some stuff on my blog, although there’s also a lot that’s non poetry-related. I’ve not been writing as much as I used to recently… probably due to school exams etc, but it really is no excuse, especially as poetry provides a calm, a different space in which to… ‘explore’, I suppose. I wrote one thing the other day (just over a week and a bit ago,) which surprised me. It seemed quite different to the way I usually write. I can send you some, if you like, but I don’t want to ‘force’ them upon you!

    Have you heard about NAGTY’s ‘Cross Cultural Creative Writing Programme’? I’ve sent my acceptance form off for that, it sounds quite interesting, and should get me writing things other than poetry – which is always good.

    PS: I am still trying to get the chapbook done; it is difficult because 1) it is a charity organisation, hence slow. 2) I am slow and deliberate far too much!

    22 Mar 2007, 20:32

  4. Hi Katie,

    Sorry that my reply is late too! It is the Easter break at the moment so I am not teaching and I haven’t been checking it so often. Mina Loy is a wonderful poet. I wrote on her for my MA dissertation. I will post one of my favourite poems by her on my creative blog.

    It is difficult to write constantly. Silences or periods where you don’t work can be useful so don’t feel bad. I haven’t heard about NAGTY’s ‘Cross Cultural Creative Writing Programme’, but it sounds like a good project to be involved with. Also let me know when your chapbook is out!

    29 Mar 2007, 11:13

  5. See this link: http://blogs.warwick.ac.uk/zoebrigley/entry/from_three_moments/

    29 Mar 2007, 11:19

  6. Hi Zoe,

    I’ve been away in London with family, hence my ridiculously late replies, and I understand you must of course be busy with work etc anyway. I wondered whether it was Easter for you yet when I commented on your teaching blog – I suppose, naturally, it varies between the universities. My sister wasn’t home for Easter then though, so I thought I may as well reply. And if I didn’t then, I would keep meaning to, but get sidetracked. Thank you for posting that other poem by Mina Loy! I’ll attempt to put my thoughts into some sort of response soon! Do you choose who you write about for the MA? How wide is the scope?

    Difficult, but important, I find – even if it is simply lists of things to do, or words and phrases which sound appealing. Perhaps I am just scared of entirely not writing though – that would seem strange, now. I think Sarah Dauncey is in charge of the project? I’ve not had a chance to look at it yet, having not been at a computer at all recently. Yes, I’ll do so!

    10 Apr 2007, 10:38

  7. Yes you do choose who you write about for your MA dissertation and you have to choose quite a specific topic. It can’t be too broad. I wrote on three early modernist women poets: Amy Lowell, Mina Loy and Elinor Wylie.

    25 May 2007, 14:11

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Please note that I also have a blog for ideas and research at: www.blogs.warwick.ac.uk/zoebrigley

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

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