Celebrating Lesbian Jewish Writer Gertrude Stein

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Happy Hanukkah! To celebrate the first day of the season, we’d like to honor one of our favorite lesbian Jewish writers, the legendary Gertrude Stein. 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.

Stein was 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.

Author Gertrude Stein (L), 70, America’s most famous expatriate, posing w. her companion-secy. Alice B. Toklas & their white poodle on the doorstep of her house during the US 7th Army’s liberation of Southern France. (Photo by Carl Mydans/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)

The following poem, “Pink Melon Joy,” was published in Geography and Play.

“Pink Melon Joy”

My dear what is meat.
I certainly regret visiting.
My dear what does it matter.
Leaning.
Maintaining maintaining checkers.
I left a leaf and I meant it.
Splintering and hams.
I caught a cold.
Bessie
They are dirty.
Not polite.
Not steel.
Not fireless.
Not bewildered.
Not a present.
Why do I give old boats.
Theresa.
Exchange in bicycles.
It happened that in the aggregate and they did
not
hear then, it happened in the aggregate that they
were
alone.
It is funny. When examples are borrowing and
little
pleasures are seeking after not exactly a box
then comes
the time for drilling. Left left or left. Not up.
Really
believe me it is sheltered oaks that matter. It
is they
who are sighing. It really is.
Not when I hear it.

Further reading: A History of Jewish Lesbianism 

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