Below is an assignment sheet and class activity inspired by the video I posted yesterday. I'll be presenting my Contempoary American Poetry students with this assignment tomorrow, after they watch the youtube video of two high school students reciting Stein's "Patriarchal Poetry."
Gertrude Stein: A Performance of Poetry
“Words have to do everything in poetry…” (“Poetry and Grammar” 209).
Gertrude Stein is powerful because her poetry makes her readers aware of language in a way that other kinds of poetry makes readers aware of imagery, narrative, or character. Stein is concerned with the word, with the sounds of words, with the look of words, with the connections between words, and the movement of words. After reading her essay, “Poetry and Grammar” we also know that Stein is concerned with syntax, punctuation, articles, verbs, adverbs, nouns, pronouns and their uses and misuses. This exercise will put you in Stein’s writerly shoes and help you understand why every word, every sound, and every punctuation mark is important in the construction of a poem. With a partner, you will create a poem that is aurally and visually representative of Stein’s personal poetics.
1. Brainstorm, 2-3 minutes
· Together, pick & agree on a word or an idea that is packed with a lot of meaning. This will be your title & the base word for your poem.
2. Write, 10 min
· Together play a word association game, where you come up with all the words you can that relate in some way to your title. Think not only about meaning relations, but sound and movement associations as well.
· Now write a 20 line poem using the words above considering the following Steinisms: 1.) nouns and adjectives are boring, 2.) mistakes are interesting, 3.) verbs and adverbs make the best mistakes (so try this!), 4.) pronouns and articles are cool because they create “varied somethings,” 5.) conjunctions “work to live,” 6.) question marks are just for decoration, anyone who is anyone knows when they’re asked a question, and 7.) the same goes for quotations and exclamations (which are just plain ugly).
· Now use BOTH your voices to come up with a performance of your poem. Remember that the words do the work, therefore pay attention to how sound of the words create movement in the poem. Both of you must participate in the performance of the poem.