Gertrude Stein and Sommer Browning

So, I think I’m making progress. This week I was able to actually read all the words in Gertrude Stein’s poems. Am I any closer to understanding them? Nah. But hey, I’m gonna say it’s progress anyway. Although there is a lack of repetition in these poems, which is what allows me to actually read them, Stein still seems to be severing language from referentiality. In some ways this is more confusing that the repetition. It made sense to me why I couldn’t understand Patriarchal Poetry, I could barely read it! Her repetition of the same word over and over messed with the structure of the sentence itself. However, in Tender Buttons she has sentences with no repetition, with subjects and verbs, sentences I should feasibly be able to read and understand, but can’t. For example in a poem titled “A Sound” she writes, “Elephant beaten with candy and little pops and chews all bolts and reckless reckless rats, this is this” (Stein, 15). I like the imagery of elephants beaten with candy, but have no idea what that’s suppose to mean. And yeah, I know, you’re not suppose to search for meaning in poetry through a literal translation of the words. But it seems like it has the same feel of Patriarchal Poetry just without the repetition, which is what I thought caused the severing of language from referentiality. But I guess I was wrong. The question is however: what is Stein using in these poems to create the same effect she did in Patriarchal Poetry?

This week I also read some of Sommer Browning’s poetry. I see a comparison to Stein in one of her poems because of her use of repetition. “Check it. Check again. The light, the accounts, the baby. Check it. Then check again. The weight, the recipe. Check them, the shelves, then check them again” (Browning, 27). This continues on with her repeating “Check” or “Check on it” throughout the poem. Despite her use of repetition, however, I was still able to understand it, or at least better than Stein, so I don’t believe she is using repetition to sever language from referentiality as Stein was attempting to do. However, in another poem Browning writes, “Hurricane winds ruin butter. Lightning devastates the hot tub. Discovery born in secret” (Browning, 20). This gives me a similar feeling Stein’s poetry did in Tender Buttons. Although I know all the words in the sentence and their meaning I can’t seem to piece them into a coherent thought. How do hurricanes ruin butter? Why are elephants being beaten with candy?


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