Thursday, October 03, 2013

ModPo 2013 #24 The Color of Hurt: On Stein's "A Carafe, That is a Blind Glass"

Image from

Gertrude Stein from Tender Buttons

A kind in glass and a cousin, a spectacle and nothing strange a single hurt color and an arrangement in a system to pointing. All this and not ordinary, not unordered in not resembling. The difference is spreading.


I liked this poem. While in the essay by Perloff she mentions that the carafe is blind because of its contents (perhaps sherry or wine, making the glass opaque), I saw something different. For me the carafe is blind in the sense that a horse has blinders. A carafe is single-minded. It is meant for pouring its content into a glass. It was made for decanting. 

"Hurt color" intrigued me. How could a color be hurt? In Perloff's essay she refers to the color of hurt, the color of blood: red. I think that makes sense. For me the "arrangement in a system of pointing" is referring to its blindness, its single purpose, a pointing towards pouring. In the "ordinary" carafe, the speaker sees the "not ordinary" and there are two negatives to throw off the reader to reflect on the more direct "order in differing."There is an order to differing. And here, I get a clue that the carafe has indeed performed outside of its blindness: the difference is spreading... like wine or sherry spilled on a white mantle, the carafe has not poured, it has spread its content. 

In a sense this is a meta-poem because it talks about form, function, content---the same structures of language. In Filipino, translation is called pagsasalin (in English, this word is pouring or the act of pouring). It refers to the liquid state of language. It doesn't matter what holds it up, the content will still be the same. In Stein's poem the form is rigid, it is single-minded especially when the form serves a certain purpose. However, the content can be set free. It need not stay within its rigid form. And, at the end of the poem, this freedom of content is spreading (like a virus) and going beyond its form. It is a commentary on language. Form serves a purpose but form can also restrict. So, don't adapt to the form. Spread out. Very modernist indeed. 

I like the quote from Wittgenstein in Perloff's essay: "that a poem, even though it is composed in the language of information, is not used in the language-game of giving information."I like the idea of language as game. There are different rules, depending on the game you are playing. The game of poetry is probably one of the most freeing kinds of language games. It is constantly being defined and redefined. And yet, over the centuries, it is a cipher for the kinds of thinking being done in its time. It is story when it needs to be story. It is rebellion when it needs to be rebellion. 

Inspired by this poem, I created something new below, the color of hurt:

First World Stain

"The difference is/ spreading" - Gertrude Stein, "A Carafe, That is a Blind Glass"

Pass me the carafe. The blind, hurt carafe.
Walang carafe dito. Tubig lang. Water.
Tubig lang sa bote. 
White wine bottle, Paul Masson, label peeled off
long ago. No spirits here. Only water, pure unbruised
water with lip waiting to serve. No, di water is from
di gripo. Better drink di coke. Coke is okay
than di water. Buksan mo. Bilisan mo. Maraming nakapila.
The arrangement of the order. I am nosebleed of the 
English. Does not resemble. And now the coke is
spreading. Punasan. Bilis. 

Hmmm. I don't know how I would translate this. For tonight, I won't even try. 

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