Jena Osman on Stein's valentine

Date: Tue, 12 Oct 1999 18:18:45 -0400
From: jena osman 
Subject: Very Fine Valentine which is Very Mine

I like this way of thinking about (listening to) the poem: 

>    Stein's poetry, being the spontaneous, in-the-present language
>manipulation that it is, can be interesting to listen to as --pure sound--
>    Take the deviations of the sound Valentine
>                Veryfine ismy valentine.
>                Veryfine and verymine.
>                Verymine ismy valentine verymine and veryfine.
>                Veryfine ismy valentine andmine, veryfine verymine andmine
>ismy Valentine.

(who wrote this?)

And I think there is a relation to the sound pleasures that children have
in nursery rhymes (and in autograph book epigraphs). What's interesting to
me in that comparison is that nursery rhymes lose their content by the
foregrounding of sound. Why Stein is so difficult is that a similar
re-positioning of content has taken place. So if the content isn't found in
how the words "add up," where can it be found? 

Because of how Stein uses repetition, I often find myself musing about
words that I would normally take for granted because they seem so simple.
These musings usually lead me to the dictionary. Today I looked up "mine"

1.  archaic for "my" used before a vowel or h
2. that which belongs to me
3. a pit or excavation in the earth from which minieral substances are
taken; a subterranean passage under an enemy position; an encased explosive
designed to destroy enemy personnel, vehicles, or ships; a rich source of
supply; a pyrotechnic piece comprising various small fireworks that are
scattered into the air with a loud report
4. to dig a mine; to dig under to gain access or cause the collapse of; to
burrow beneath the surface of; to process for obtaining a natural
consitutent; to seek valuable material in

and "fine"

1. impose a fine on
2. free from impurity; having a stated proportion of pure metal in the
composition; very thin in gauge and texture; very small; having a delicate
or subtle quality; subtle or sensitive in perception or care and accuracy;
superior in quality, conception, or appearance: excellent; awful

I like the relationships that the definitions bring up--the purity of metal
and the mining for minerals. Also the fact that we are "mining" this poem
for "valuable materials." And the products are "very fine." And the mining
makes them mine.

I think that "mining" is an activity that we're used to doing with
conventional poems. Lately I've been reading a lot of T.S. Eliot and his
referentiality makes a lot of my interaction with the poems feel like some
kind of archaeological dig. But I can't say that the mining activity I
employ in reading Eliot ever makes me feel like the poem is "mine." But in
Stein's reader-centered poetics, mining the poem--working with it,
investigating it--does make it mine. 

I hope this makes some sense. 


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