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  A LITERARY JOURNAL DEVOTED ENTIRELY TO THE PROSE POEM  
 

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GERTRUDE STEIN

Gertrude Stein (1874-1946) In 1914, when expatriate Gertrude Stein was living in Paris, Claire Marie (a small publisher in New York) published a book of her prose poems called Tender Buttons: Objects, Food, Rooms. Many critics have described these jarring pieces as “verbal Cubism,” which helps explain the havoc they play with syntax. In the original, Stein's prose poems are all of a piece, and in isolation will obviously lose some of the threads that hold them together, but here are a few from "Objects" (Stein was occupied here with the essence of things, as was Francis Ponge a little later, and Robert Bly even later, although each in very different ways):

 

   

 

A BOX.

Out of kindness comes redness and out of rudeness comes rapid same question, out of an eye comes research, out of selection comes painful cattle. So then the order is that a white way of being round is something suggesting a pin and is it disappointing, it is not, it is so rudimentary to be analysed and see a fine substance strangely, it is so earnest to have a green point not to red but to point again.

 

   
   

A RED STAMP.

If lilies are lily white if they exhaust noise and distance and even dust, if they dusty will dirt a surface that has no extreme grace, if they do this and it is not necessary it is not at all necessary if they do this they need a catalogue.

 

   
   

A SELTZER BOTTLE.

Any neglect of many particles to a cracking, any neglect of this makes around it what is lead in color and certainly discolor in silver. The use of this is manifold. Supposing a certain time selected is assured, suppose it is even necessary, suppose no other extract is permitted and no more handling is needed, suppose the rest of the message is mixed with a very long slender needle and even if it could be any black border, supposing all this altogether made a dress and suppose it was actual, suppose the mean way to state it was occasional, if you suppose this in August and even more melodiously, if you suppose this even in the necessary incident of there certainly being no middle in summer and winter, suppose this and an elegant settlement a very elegant settlement is more than of consequence, it is not final and sufficient and substituted. This which was so kindly a present was constant.

 

   
[Reprinted from Gertrude Stein, Tender Buttons: Objects, Food, Rooms, originally published in 1914 (New York: Claire Marie); now in public domain and available at Bartleby.com, 1999.]

 

   

ISSN 2155-1006 (ONLINE)
© 2013 The Prose-Poem Project
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