Stein's "Let Us Describe"

Subject: Re: What Do I see
To: (Lauryl Hicks)
Date: Sat, 16 Oct 1999 16:47:32 -0400 (EDT)
Precedence: bulk

                        CAN WE GET TO THE POINT WHERE WE SEE
                        OTHER STEIN POEMS WORKING AS


Responding to Joan and others on "Let Us Describe," one of the easier and
more narrative of the Stein readings we're tackling, I wrote about the
fragmentation of language (or in other words the linguistic *confusion*)
at the end of "Let Us Describe," a mess that occurs in the language just
when in the "narrative" of the poem we get to the fatal car accident.

I wrote in part:

| >---> The "dissipation" at the end of "Let Us Describe" seems to me to
| >enact the car accident in that prose-poem. More fragmentation than
| >dissipation, it seems to me.

Then Lauryl replied, hoping to connect the accidental language of the end
of "Let Us Describe" to the accidental language at the end of "What Do I

| But do you think a connection
| could be made between the "accidental" language at the end of "Let Us
| Describe" and the choppy final lines of "What Do I See"? Both must
| point, I
| think, to what Joan observed in "that," the inadequacy of artificial
| descriptions which bear no resemblance to reality.

I think there is absolutely a similarity between the two poems. It's just
that "Let Us Describe" is a relatively understandable (and teachable)
version of this sort of thing. The (quasi)narrative of the poem gives us
the "story" of a car accident in which some friends of the speaker die
and thus the poem is a poem of mourning, expressing loss, and it actually
blesses or consecrates the dead. It does so by trying in language to
reproduce the disorienting suddenness of the tragedy and implies that all
such events are accidents. It uses, as Lauryl says, an accidental

This sort of thing, as I say (and as Lauryl suggests), happens in Stein's
writings generally.  When it's more difficult to talk about it it's often
because there is no narrative--nothing to story-like as in "Let Us

"Let Us Describe" is about description--how hard it is to

                        make sense

of such human loss.

All of Stein's work is about how hard it is to

                        make sense

of people's doings rendered in language.


navigate 88v: schedule | key | home | PAPERs | | m a i l the s t a f f