Gertrude Stein breaking words


I have been binge reading Gertrude Stein and Gertrude Stein bios (and some Alice B. Toklas).

How do we break out of our dogmatic slumber? This was the question Socrates asked.

For Gertrude Stein language slumbered. She was awakening language from its dogmatic slumber.

“A rose is a rose is a rose is a rose”

Perhaps when we speak when we let language sleep, we forget that language engages all the senses, not just our interpretive faculty.

This is the pendulum swinging from language as disenchanted and only symbolic or indexical, to language (also disenchanted) but as sounds and rhythms. There are things in this life that have no meaning beyond their use – money for example.

Language is not just an empty symbol it is just just sensation it is also a cluster of meanings that themselves evoke sensations. Language is an affect machine. Music is an affect machine. Painting is an affect machine. I listen to a Bach Cello Suite, I stand in the sistine chapel, I listen to four quartets and I feel something. Do we both feel the same thing? Not necessarily. That is what it means to have different taste.

What is feeling anyway? If I say that a piece of music makes me feel a certain way, I am overlaying an interpretation on my emotional state (my feeling). The feeling is just an energetic state. Emotion is just energy. There is no causal relationship between a piece of music and my emotions.

But there is an atmosphere. I imagine myself as an electron cloud walking through the world and coming into contact with electron clouds of people and art and machines and animals and plants and the air and the sunlight. When I experience a work of art it affects my atmosphere.

Our electron clouds interact with art, poetry, music, Gertrude Stein in different ways in part because our personal electron clouds are different. They are different because we have different bodies and different histories. My experiences of roses are different than yours. So a rose is a rose is a rose is a rose.- but it is a also a rose and it is different from your rose. And if I create a string of words rich with meaning then they will create a different electron cloud in you and me that interacts with your history.

I think of the poetry that I write and I consider it splenic. In is splenic in that it contains the history of human evolution of human preservation. My immediate present – experienced in all its sensorial wonder – is a product of my history. So maybe a rose is scarlet a rose smells of geraniol my rose goes down easy with brie it is natural with some funk. How does its sediment land on your mountain of meaning? What is your archaeology?

Words are machines. Gertrude Stein takes the batteries out of words. She breaks the hammer and reveals its tool-being.

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