Thursday, June 24, 2010

“Gertrude Stein”

Hi, folks! Having spent the morning booting & re-booting the computer in various attemots to solve performance issues (nothing too major, but all annoying at least), I am finally here with our Final Thursday featured poem.

We’re bringing our two-month look at Mina Loy to a close today with a short poem that Loy wrote in the early 1920s as a tribute to Gertrude Stein. Mina Loy was an active member of Stein’s salon, & was close friends with many of the artists & writers who congregated chez Stein. Gertrude Stein paid Loy a high compliment in her Autobiography of Alice B Toklas, when she wrote, "Mina Loy . . . was able to understand without the commas. She has always been able to understand." There was a great deal of mutual respect between Stein & Loy—interesting, because they are unquestionably two of the most important yet misunderstood writers from the “Modernist” period.

If you’re not familiar with the work of Loy & Stein, please do yourself a favor & check them out. Loy’s poems are fortunately in print, as The Lost Lunar Baedecker, while Stein’s works are readily available. A good introduction to Stein (I think) would be either Three Lives or The Autobiography of Alice B Toklas.

Featured poet for July & August? Robert Creeley. But for now, enjoy these lines about Gertrude Stein—& consider in what ways they are about Loy as well!

Gertrude Stein

of the laboratory
of vocabulary
        she crushed
the tonnage
of consciousness
congealed to phrases
        to extract
a radium of the word

Mina Loy


  1. That poem clicks nicely on the geiger counter!

    Since you mention that next month's featured poet will be Robert Creeley, you may enjoy this link to a reading by him at the Lannan Foundation (which has a great series of videos of poetry readings.

    The above link should work, but, if it doesn't, the url address is:

  2. What a great poem! Lorenzo, you're so right about the geiger counter. I love the parallel pictures, too! Thanks for shining the spotlight on Mina Loy, John.

  3. " to understand without the commas"

    I love that.

  4. Still haven't bought Mina Loy, but will definitely put that right quite soon. Interesting post, John.

  5. Hi Lorenzo, Audrey, Willow & Martin

    Lorenzo: Love the geiger counter comment, & thanks for the Creeley links--will check them out.

    Audrey: I particularly thought of you & Eberle when posting this one--was going to talk about Mina Loy's connection to Djuna Barnes, too--you probably know Loy appeared as "Patience Scalpel" in "Ladies Almanack"--but decided it was off-topic. Thanks!

    Willow: Yes, that is a great phrase!

    Martin: Thanks! You won't be disappointed in Loy's work--it is difficult, as is Stein's, but we routinely read other modernists like Eliot, Pound & Joyce whose works aren't intrinsically more transparent. The male modernists have just been explicated for a longer period of time.

  6. I'm curious about Stein , must try the autobiography of Alice B Toklas

  7. Hi TFE: Yes, do--that's a good intro, or Three Lives, as I said. She was a great writer; as I said in the comment to Martin, Stein & Loy are no more "difficult" than Eliot, Pound, Joyce, et al, but don't have the years of academic explication behind them.

  8. A wonderful poem which has instantly become on of my favourites (and, of course, has been transcribed into my pocket book). A poem which - in a sense - does exactly what it says on the tin.

  9. "Understanding without the commas' ... now that is wonderful! It's how I feel about the lovely people I've met through my blog. Thanks, too, for introducing me to Mina Loy.

  10. the laboratory
    of vocabulary

    What a wonderful place - mad wordsmiths with wild hair and lab coats.

    I enjoyed the poem; thanks for posting it.

  11. Hi Alan, Nana Jo, Karen & HKatz

    Alan: I love that--"does exactly what it says on the tin"; it does at that!

    Nana Jo: So glad you've enjoyed this, & such a nice take on the "comma" comment!

    Karen: Thanks--glad you liked it!

    HKatz: Love the "wordsmiths with wild hair and lab coats"--thanks!


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