Gertrude Stein – George Hugnet

Gertrude Stein – “George Hugnet”

George and Genevieve.
Geronimo with a with whether they thought they were with whether.
Without their finding it out. Without. Their finding it out. With whether.
George whether they were about. With their finding their whether it finding it out whether with their finding about it out.
George with their finding it with out.
George whether their with their it whether.
Redoubt out with about.
With out whether it their whether with out doubt.
Azure can with out about.
It is welcome welcome thing.
George in are ring.
Lain away awake.
George in our ring.
George Genevieve Geronimo straightened it out without their finding it out.
Grammar makes George in our ring which Grammar make George in our ring.
Grammar is as disappointed not is as grammar is as disappointed.
Grammar is not as Grammar is as disappointed.
George is in our ring. Grammar is not is disappointed. In are ring.
George Genevieve in are ring.

No, that’s not a typo. It’s a Gertrude Stein poem.

I’m not even going to attempt a line-level interpretation here, which would be hugely subjective. But you see, that subjectivity was Stein’s point. She was writing much in the style that the impressionists were painting – deconstructed images that say more through suggestion than description. I love the sound of Stein’s poems – at least in my head – even though many do not. (I was booed at a Borders open mic before for reading her poetry.)

Stein’s broken friendship with surrealist writer and painter Georges Hugnet (“George” is a deliberate misspelling) might illuminate this poem, but even without knowing anything about that, or without any kind of literal narrative, the poem conveys a tension between closeness and distance. You feel that George was once part of our/are ring, a ring of friends (George Genevieve Geronimo – perhaps Georges, Toklas, & Stein?), but then has a falling out. Because grammar is disappointed – harsh words were said. Miscommunication. Loss. It’s all in there. That’s my impression, anyway.


One Response to Gertrude Stein – George Hugnet

  1. Angele Ellis says:

    This poem resembles an obsessive inner monologue, with its obscure but portentous repetitions and regrets, and its sense/nonsense that “grammar is disappointed” (not only because harsh words were said, but because the rules of grammar are inadequate to express the speaker’s distress over the situation).

    Fragmentation is frightening, which is one reason–I think–that you were booed after reading work like this in public.

    The line that echoes in my head is “Redoubt out with about.” The speaker’s defenses, her feeling of protection, are broken? Her doubts about the relationship (or even the possibility of relationship) are redoubling, and becoming overwhelming? And now the secret is out and about?

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