Gertrude Stein and Tantra

I’m excited to post my first broadcast book review of Jennifer Moxley’s poems, “The Line”!  Thanks to Jay, Nick and Delia for including me on their cool show, “Poet As Radio.”  A great interview with the poet Sara Larsen, author of  “A A A A A” and “The Hallucinated” kicks things off–my review starts at the 51:30 mark.  I’m currently working on a review of Juliana Spahr’s “well then there now” for a future show.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about the similarities between poetry and tantra, the school of practices that views the body itself as a vehicle for liberation.  It’s a huge subject, but for me the idea is that just as tantra sees the body as the way to become liberated from itself, poetry uses language to become liberated from the constrictions of language.  Tantra uses a vast array of methods, from pranayama (breathing) to mantra (chanting), mandalas and yantras (geometric depictions of the universe), and others to enable the body to experience itself as fluid energy rather than a single identity.  It’s true that you can look at the mandala below and just see a pretty design made of bright colors, but if you are a student of tantra, you can learn how to let the image change the way you look at the world around you.

Similarly, Gertrude Stein used language in a way that subverted the rational mind’s ability to make meaning in its usual way.  Here’s her poem, “A Carafe, that is a Blind Glass”:

A kind in glass and a cousin, a spectacle and nothing strange a single hurt color and an arrangement in a system to pointing. All this and not ordinary, not unordered in not resembling. The difference is spreading.

I like the way Stein’s poem plays with my mind.  All those “s” sounds in “glass,” “cousin,” “spectacle,” “strange,” “single,” and “system”!  Then the double and triple and quadruple negatives of “not ordinary,” “not unordered,” and “not resembling.”  And the final difference, now “spreading.”

Ok, my mind’s primed now–time to go out and “unorder” it some more.  I’m going to see the Gertrude Stein exhibit, “The Steins Collect,” at SFMOMA!