05 June 2005

Object Defamiliarized

The following poems show the use of disliked poetic style to write poetry. Gertrude Stein defamiliarized many objects, employing words and phrases not usually associated with an object to create a new sense of the thing. Therefore, her poems are intentionally difficult to understand, but once the reader realizes what's going on, they can pat her on the back for her cleverness.

In my Advanced Poetry Class, Professor Kasey Mohammad had us select some object readily in view and write a poem about it using only the words on a page from Wittgenstein. The limited and clinical sound of the words created extreme difficulties in composing the poem, but illustrated the limits of language in general. I've provided the original exercise, along with the revised version:

Coat Tree (original version)

Picture affairs a proposition
as perceptible geometry
a point a point a point a point a point
a point perceptible reality
we can picture it therefore
possible only if it’s recognizable
projected content figure co-ordinates

—Kyle Stich, 26 April 2005

Coat Tree ala Gertrude (revised version)

Limb whittled and tacked,
nailed for retention of warm cover.
Coordinated projections with deliberate geometry.
Dangle dangle veils, tops, and wraps.
If only for absence,
the lonely projections of unrealized use,
standing solo for none but one to see.

—Kyle Stich, 4 June 2005

My original and revised versions employ too much punctuation and too many line breaks to properly mimic Stein's style. In addition, the word choice is too close to the actual object: "point," "projections," "nailed," and "whittled." Although, the poem isn't overtly direct; it suggests the object versus describes it, which makes it fit Stein's style in spirit at least.

(See picture below for the object of inspiration.)


Anonymous said...

I am unfamiliar with Gertrude Stein's work. In my ignorance, I didn't realize that she wrote much poetry. The concept you are working with is an intriguing idea with poetry. In fact the whole word/idea of being defamiliarized is something to think aobut. I'll have to try writing this way sometime.

Anonymous said...

Oh, sorry I fogot to sign my comment. The above is from me--you could have probably guessed though.


Robert Casserly said...

You say Stein doesn't "describe" the coat tree, she only "suggests it.

But what, then, about the title of the poem? That's a description if I ever read one. She titles her poems "food" or "rooms" or "cat" because if she didn't, the reader wouldn't have any f-in idea what she was trying to tell us.

Stein did for poetry what fingerpainting did for the fine arts. Non-writing as an excuse for a political statement...I think I rather scatch my eyes out with a star thistle, thank you.

Kyle Stich said...

Good point, Robert. I agree completely, and feel the same way about Stein's poem. She must love how perturbed most people feel about her work.