Wednesday, December 14, 2011

A puzzle with a partial solution

     When we have experiences near to each other, we may try to connect them. We form superstitions. "Bad things come in threes" -- and something similar for good things. And we make poetry -- offering new associations that delight and surprise.
     Gertrude Stein is one of my favorite poets. She was, like me, born in Pennsylvania (though she, unlike me, left and became Parisian).   She creates almost-meaning from unlikely juxtapositions.  I find in her work the delight of a puzzle to which I can find a partial solution. And come back for more. Here are two stanzas from Stein's "Stanzas in Meditation" that play with some mathematical meanings.

from Stanzas in Meditation    by Gertrude Stein

   Part I
   Stanza XIII

   She may count three little daisies very well
   By multiplying to either six nine or fourteen
   Or she can be well mentioned as twelve
   Which they may like which they can like soon
   Or more than ever which they wish as a button
   Just as much as they arrange which they wish
   Or they can attire where they need as which say
   Can they call a hat or a hat a day
   Made merry because it is so.

   Part III
   Stanza V

   It is not a range of a mountain
   Of average of a range of a average mountain
   Nor can they of which of which of arrange
   To have been not which they which
   Can add a mountain to this.
   Upper an add it then maintain
   That if they were busy so to speak
   Add it to and
   It not only why they could not add ask
   Or when just when more each other
   There is no each other as they like
   They add why then emerge an add in
   It is of absolutely no importance how often they add it.

From Stanzas in Meditation by Gertrude Stein (Sun & Moon Classics, 2000); this collection will also be available 17 January 2012 in a "corrected edition."


  1. I was just yesterday reading "She may count three little daisies very well" as I was mining The Stanzas for a snippet to contribute to a writing exercise I'm doing in Inspired by Gertrude Stein workshop. That is quite a puzzle she presents but it left me thinking that unless I have someone like JoAnne Growney in my workshop, this might frustrate the average writer. I do love the way she plays with one and zero in her so-called kids' book TO DO but I don't own a copy and didn't have time to chase that one down. Gtrde definitely is a mathematician's writer!

  2. Thanks, Karren, for dropping by -- wish I could attend your workshop. Gertrude is a genius on a par with Ein. (That is, Ein-stein.)