Sunday, October 06, 2013

ModPo 2013 #26: Bread and Artifacts: On Stein's Statements on Narrative, Nouns, Repeating and Composition

Stein on narrative.
Stein on nouns.
Stein on repeating.

Stein on composition:
From "Composition as Explanation"

I found it very enjoyable to read Stein's statements on components of language stated above, particularly on composition. Her statement of composition was a poem in itself. I see her mind working to push against the boundaries of language. Language is the frame, for sure, but I see her effort at working with the raw materials and creating something new out of what is "given."

I'm sharing a couple of poems below about bread. I didn't realize that I wrote about bread twice already. It has to do with nouns and repetitions and I see how Stein's statements are things that I've turned over in my head.


My son asks me if we can visit a bakery
so we can see how bread is made.
"There are other kinds of bread, Mama, right?"
I assure him that there are. There are deliciously
heavy breads like brioche, baked with lots of
eggs and butter. There are grainy breads and
there are breads that are flat for a lack of yeast.
And I remember dismantling the word "bread."
I was on the way to an aunt's home, not much
older than my own son. I took apart the word,
saying it over and over again, marveling at how
it only stood for the thing that I ate, that left
crumbs on the plate. How could this be separate
and yet one with the thing of sustenance?
And who chose that it start with a "b" and end
with a "d?" And why does the "r" sound and feel
like the texture of the bread? At some point I felt
I did not understand the word.
And then time intervened.

So, today, for a few moments, I glimpsed
once again, how the words are the promises and
the things themselves, how the words are the story,
and the remembrance, and the life itself.

(August 2, 2013)

Signifying Bread

My puzzles are different:
consisting of images
and words.

Words have always
puzzled me:
the frame of anything real,
symbols one after the
signifying bread.

The way I say bread,
the way I remember a poem
that talks about a woman
dismantling bread
in her hands,
the expelling of breath
when one says the word

The bread of life,
the secret life of
the meaning of bread
or its meaningless-

The taste of bread
which is very different
for each person
in this world,
the different kinds
of bread

and how bread is not
what rice is
to me.

I remember how I
broke down the word,
how it became alien
to me.

I must have been seven,
on the way to someone's house.
As we turned the corner,
I realized how bread
was a word
and not the bread
but how the bread
itself would not
without the word.

And the word
was made
and the flesh
was signified
by bread.

(Jan. 5, 2010)


Stein has helped me see these puzzles in context of her search for something new within the conventions that she was born into. We were born into words, into narrative, into language. It is one thing to learn and enjoy from the rich history of language (the adolescence that she spoke of in her statement on narrative) and it is another to mature and to question the assumptions that are made about language. It is another thing to "reverse engineer" from an understanding of conventions: nouns, narrative, repeating (to expose and defamiliarize) and composition.

To end, I want to go back to composition. Composition is the writer's mark and the artifact that the reader interacts with. Composition is audacity. It is the living and the life, of the time within, the time of the composition, the time when the composition was composed. I like this way of seeing language as the materials for art.

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