comma comma comma comma comma comedian



so i cleaned out my closet and found an old pair of jeans…in the pocket, i found an old looking $10 bill. on the back of the bill, there was a short poem signed ‘F. O’hara’ dated 1959!!! apparently, it is a long lost poem that has been circulating for almost 50 years! needless to say, we are all very excited


so pamela posted re: the villa / stein discussion and i wanted to repost her comment (as well as forrest’s most recent comment) to continue discussion in this comment stream (i hope).


(gertrude stein, by andy warhol)


pamela wrote:

I can’t help seeing the biographical correspondences in Stein’s opposition between the servile (feminine) comma and the decisive (masculine) period. I keep thinking back to that unflattering New Yorker article a few years back, which quoted a magazine photographer’s memories of photographing Stein on an ocean liner. He didn’t want to shoot her just standing woodenly still, so he instructed her to act like she was doing a task, like unpacking her suitcase. This flummoxed Stein because, she said, Alice always unpacked her suitcase for her, she never unpacked her suitcase for herself and didn’t know how to. Well then do something you know how to do, the photographer said. Stein said she knew how to take off her own hat and put it back on, and so the portrait was taken, of her taking off her hat and putting it back on.

For me, this puts a biographical spin on:

“As I say commas are servile and they have no life of their own, and their use is not a use, it is a way of replacing one’s interest and i do decidedly like to like my own interest my own interest in what I am doing. A comma by helping you along holding your coat for you and putting on your shoes keeps you from living your life as actively as you should lead it…”

Is Stein displaying more than a bit of resentment toward those feminine helpers (Alice and/or a maid) who enabled her masculine privilege (freedom from household chores, free time to pursue willful acts of self-expression) but also helped keep her in a state of dependent infancy? Is her dismissal of the comma an attempt to erase or deny the significance of these partners/helpers in relation to her work process?


forrest said:

I’d say she was a little deffiant in feminine and masculine characteristics. Especially if her most prominent muscle memory was putting on and taking off her hat. (Unless it was a really cold cruise.) I’d say this is where she really pays for the death of the reader. It’s only dead because it’s suffused into everything. And here we are reading her hat.


14 thoughts on “comma comma comma comma comma comedian

  1. pam’s comment made me think about stein’s conception of the comma in terms of what she terms “patriarchal poetry”.

    altho i read stein’s comma as a metaphor for the colonized subject, one could also read her comma as the chains that colonize and subject an active feminine.

    if the comma were chains to teach a woman how to behave properly, then her dismissal of the comma could be a gesture of breaking free of the comma as patriarchal tool…

    where does this leave my reading of the comma?

    anyways, any feedback would be most appreciated!

  2. Of Being Numerous — Oppen… cause like I was reading him and his collected books is lying here on my laptop on my desk, next to the double deck casette player which has been busily helping me digitize live recordings from raves dating back 10 years or more… woo hooo

    another point for the lenster.

  3. jessica, crazy … i’ve never been a big frost fan, but maybe now i will revisit his work…

    mephis is BACK! raves from 10 years ago! i was only a wee baby!

    jenn just told me that the lyrics to the Culture Clash song is “karma chameleon” and not “comma comedian” — OOOOPPPPPSSSS!!!! it’s all this talk of commas

  4. Ah! Dammit! I’m on the road for 14 hours, you post the title of an Oppen poem and when I see, mephis has already posted the answer.

  5. Re: Where does this leave my reading of the comma?

    You know, I never really thought about it before, but it does look kind of like a super limp phallus, just hanging around midsentence. Especially Times New Roman.

  6. len, did you just admit to being Collins’s biggest fan? you are banished from the post-avant! but you do get the point

    forrest, haha! i’m working on a chap of erotic poetry…it’s titled: “nipple comma nipple”

    just, as, it, looks, like, a, limp, phallus, it, also, kind, of, resembles, a,

  7. c, i’m not a frost fan either, but i have to read his stuff for my orals so i’ll tell you if there’s anything you’re really missing out on. didn’t ron or someone recently post about how technically *bad* frost was? i asked rob (The Discoverer) whether he actually *liked* the poem he found but he didn’t answer. then again, i am pretty sure that he doesn’t like me.

  8. can’t wait to hear what you find in frost! keep me updated – he was silent, eh – well, the o’hara poem i found on the 10 dollar bill wasnt the greatest poem i ever read…why doesnt he like you i wonder?

    yes warhol painted stein…would i lie 😉

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