Uncategorized, Writers Co-op

Poem Composed After Reading Gertrude Stein

As Monty Python used to say: “And now, for something completely different . . .”

Gristle Zippers

Hell is a horror is a belt is a house.   

Mommy white-faced, clench-jawed, smoking dollar bills   

green green angry   

our rabbit-eared television    

blares vacuum tube pophisses &   

fingersnap jingle-jangles upon the raptured children   

twixt game glows & sporting ejects   

better soaps & tires, softer sheets, sparkling dishes  

a fork is a fork is a fork   

chow down to father. Chow down. To father. Chow  

down to. father. Chow. Down. To. Father.  

How now cows aflutter  

vulcanized rubber sighs to do, to go, to be

gathered imbecility docility virility   

conditioned by Madison Avenue to consume, to obey   

gun-metal blue the guns, knives, grenades, berets   

foundling war: writhing rhythms   

’mongst blinkered-tinkered-sphincter’d toys    

beribboned chests & broken-backed books.    

O joy! O joke! O death! Deaths.   

Fall silent in the nave   

the grave of mind.    

–Carl E. Reed


Author’s note: Gertrude Stein would not approve of this poem. It is contemptibly bourgeois and thoroughly unconvincing in the trite, commonplace sentiments it proffers as subversive and borderline anarchist; also, it is cretinously conventional in grammar and structure. Moreover, it makes too much sense; hence violates the core principle of Dada: purest pointlessness. 


12 thoughts on “Poem Composed After Reading Gertrude Stein

  1. Funny thing, as I was reading the poem, I was thinking it made too much sense to be truly Steinian. I think I might steal this criterion for a grading rubric: “cretinously conventional in grammar and structure.”

    Liked by 4 people

    • Nope. Nope. I appreciate the energy and lacerating rawness of the Beats but vehemently disagree with the credo: “first thought, best thought”. Here I go asserting the same tiresome point again: All good writing is rewriting. Else–as Truman Capote noted: “That’s not writing; that’s typing.”

      I chuckled at your comment, though!

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Ive only resd one book by Gertrude Stein in college and otherwise know her only by movie portrayals of the artists on the West Bank. But what struck me anout her was her ability to write structurally sound but seemingly endless sentences. Perhaps the point is that punctuation, not life, is arbitrary. 😊

    Liked by 4 people

  3. I liked the poem by the way and the image of the children excited by screens hit home. It reminds me how the experiment of the first children raised by nonhumans–i.e.screens–started with the advent of television and is still ongoing. And you may have noticed that the arbitrariness of punctuation applies not only to punctuation but also, apparently, to my own spelling. 😬

    Liked by 3 people

  4. atthysgage says:

    Sense or no sense (since you brought it up) exists — I’d say, anyway — along a gradient. Even the goofiest, random word salad poem contains glints of association, glimmers of intent. Running away from the semantically sound can be an interesting exercise, both for writer and reader, but the brain is really only excited by those places where the text goes “ping!” and we’re left to ponder: is that the author or is it me? Which is not unrelated to the whole experience of reading and writing anyway.

    Anyway, I had fun.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Atthys! Always great to hear from you, brother! I’d quote your whole comment right back at you but that would be rather . . . redundant, wouldn’t it? Anyway–I agree wholeheartedly with you re: “for writer and reader . . . the brain is really only excited by those places where the text goes ‘ping!’ and we’re left to ponder: is that the author or is it me?”

      That is exactly how I feel about the texts produced by Ms. Stein and others of the avant-garde who practice Dada/pure nonsense: It is only the bits of signal that jump out of the noise (to use an engineering metaphor) that interest me. And, I suspect, others. . . .

      Liked by 2 people

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