This morning my husband discovered a folder containing poems I wrote during high school, college, and graduate school. Sadly, I haven’t written a single poem or short story since finishing school. I used to really enjoy those types of writing, and would love to begin again. The last poem I wrote consisted of two stanzas, and was an assignment for a 20th century poetry class I took in graduate school. We studied Marianne Moore, HD, and Gertrude Stein, and while I thoroughly enjoyed Moore and HD, I mostly found Stein’s writing infuriating. It is difficult to discover meaning in her words, particularly her seemingly nonsensical poetry.
Take, for example, the first two stanzas of Stein’s “Yet Dish”:
Put a sun in Sunday, Sunday.
Eleven please ten hoop. Hoop.
Cousin coarse in coarse in soap.
Cousin coarse in soap sew up. soap.
Cousin coarse in sew up soap.
A lea ender stow sole lightly.
Not a bet beggar.
Nearer a true set jump hum,
A lamp lander so seen poor lip.
Er? There is some clever word play to appreciate there, but that’s about all I get out of it. So, it was something of a challenge when our professor in the class asked us to write a poem of our own in the style of Gertrude Stein. I must say, completing this assignment made me appreciate Stein’s work more. I still prefer a poem that can be reasonably interpreted, but I also love language itself – the sounds of syllables, the way words and phrases can blur together, and the musical quality that a sympony of sentences can take on.
For what it’s worth, here is my Steinesque poem from nine years ago. It’s hard to believe it’s been that long! I am sure that some meaning creeped into the verses from my circumstances at the time, but I can’t make much sense of it now. I recall that it was snowing outside while I wrote it, but that’s the only specific memory I have. I welcome all interpretations, critiques, and comments!
The thing to see is here to know
No it was not for them it was
From it not to them in that
Which it was not bright by them
Wish that it for them was not here
She was not wishing it for them
Still quickly falling which is slow
Yet some may pillow disregard
While she or they to know of which
And so the spring is falling up
Or seeming way to show it so.
The difference in two things is in too much
Seeing into something without knowing
What it is to see and know. The name
Of knowing is in seeing or she is
Telling nothing fast to him who time
Already passed when they were still
Asking to know what it was
Asking to know what it was.
He told them before about roundness
On sidewalks where others were finding
Not what they were seeking but
Sickening still to be met by a
What which that seemingly seems so
To know you are hiding from other
No nothings not in noting their what
But in needing some something which
To climb into in two moments too momentous.