Gertrude Stein (1874-1925)
Known perhaps as
much for her experimental prose style as she is for her relationship with Alice
B. Toklas, Gertrude Stein was born in Pennsylvania but spent most of her life
in Paris helping to cultivate the modernist movement.
inspired by several distinct influences and experiences: her famous brother,
Leo Stein; studying psychology with William James; a failed attempt to finish
medical school; Picasso’s cubism (see Tender
Buttons); the paintings of Cezanne and Matisse; and her frustrating attempt
to gain recognition for her own work, including Three Lives, Things as They
Are and The Autobiography of Alice B.
Toklas, which told the story of their famous relationship.
poem, “Pink Melon Joy,” was published in Geography
“Pink Melon Joy”
My dear what is meat.
I certainly regret visiting.
My dear what does it matter.
Maintaining maintaining checkers.
I left a leaf and I meant it.
Splintering and hams.
I caught a cold.
They are dirty.
Not a present.
Why do I give old boats.
Exchange in bicycles.
It happened that in the aggregate and they did
hear then, it happened in the aggregate that they
It is funny. When examples are borrowing and
pleasures are seeking after not exactly a box
the time for drilling. Left left or left. Not up.
believe me it is sheltered oaks that matter. It
who are sighing. It really is.
Not when I hear it.
Elizabeth Bishop (1911-1979)
She was certainly
not the most prolific writer of her generation, but Elizabeth Bishop is widely
considered to be an American master. Her mentors included Marianne Moore, whom
she met at Vassar, and Robert Lowell.
Bishop’s life was
difficult from the beginning. Her father died of Bright’s disease before her
first birthday, and her mother was hospitalized for mental illness for much of
Bishop’s life. Bishop also struggled with alcoholism, and her lover, Lota de Macedo Soares, committed suicide while the two were living
together in Brazil.
Bishop was as weary
about proclaiming her sexuality as she was resistant to the title “woman poet.”
Intensely private, she once told Robert Lowell, "When
you write my epitaph, you must say I was the loneliest person who ever lived.”
is marvellous to wake up together”
is marvellous to wake up together
the same minute; marvellous to hear
rain begin suddenly all over the roof,
feel the air suddenly clear
if electricity had passed through it
a black mesh of wires in the sky.
over the roof the rain hisses,
below, the light falling of kisses.
electrical storm is coming or moving away;
is the prickling air that wakes us up.
lightning struck the house now, it would run
the four blue china balls on top
the roof and down the rods all around us,
we imagine dreamily
the whole house caught in a bird-cage of lightning
be quite delightful rather than frightening;
from the same simplified point of view
night and lying flat on one’s back
things might change equally easily,
always to warn us there must be these black
wires dangling. Without surprise
world might change to something quite different,
the air changes or the lightning comes without our blinking,
as the kisses are changing without our thinking.