1. A RESPECT FOR BEGINNINGS: We will progress back to childhood. This may alleviate any potential anxiety with Gertrude Stein’s work. This objective is to foster rejuvenation of language, playfulness, bravery, curiosity, and unbridled joy. What is a simple sentence? What is a compound sentence? What is a complex sentence? What does a verb do? What happened to our lullabies? Let’s See Spot Run. Let’s throw Spot out the window.
2. ANGER IS OKAY: Tender Buttons may frustrate you. This learning objective is to not necessarily “re-channel” this “bad” impulse, but rather lean into it in order to free it. Feeling fleets. With the ability to openly liberate frustrations, they may subside. You can be mad for three minutes. It will be timed. Shout: “Horseshit!” “Hate it!” “Why this?” “Ridiculous!” Then, don’t say these things ever again. We will work above/into/through/under/over/around our reactions. This separates us from the monkey.
3. AN APPRECIATION OF MUSICALITY: This objective is to grapple with where we began. I started with “Hush Little Baby.” Let’s re-evaluate notions of rhyme as a “lower” art form. We will attempt to understand why rhyme seeps into our subconscious and brings us back into the body. Why do we forget electric bills, lover’s birthdays, social security numbers, but remember always Mother Goose, and the Farmer and the Dell?
4. LOOSEN UP.
See learning objections, then question them.
1. Compare Gertrude Stein to Mother Goose. Find similarities in rhyme scheme. Locate an excerpt of Tender Buttons that parallels rhythms of your favorite lullaby. Or, if you aren’t able to find any, create a lullaby using language from Tender Buttons. Re-write an excerpt so that it becomes a nursery you’ll never forget. Examples: This Little Piggy Went to the Market/Baa Baa Black Sheep.
2. Pick one object in Tender Buttons. There are many. There’s glass, butter, celery, sugar, yellow, umbrella, box, piano, blue coat, seltzer bottle, dress, hat, chair, cucumber, salmon, time, light, and moon are but a few. Pick the one that picked. Let’s pretend the whole book of Tender Buttons was Gertrude Stein being the very last person in line of a 54,823-person game of Telephone. What did sugar actually say that Gertrude misheard?
3. Let’s diagram a Gertrude Stein sentence onto a Pablo Picasso painting. What goes good with his wine and fish? Celery? You may choose to pit out the apple seed of a vowel from the meat middle of a word. Where does “the” go? Which words want to see reflections of themselves in another word? What letters do we potato peel? Who wants to be alone?
4. Sometimes students are glazed Krispy Kremes in plastic red seats. You must do something. This activity could alleviate any potential fears, frustrations, and anxiety with not only Gertrude Stein, but “difficult” poetry and/or and life. Don’t be scared. There is a painting called Garden of Earthy Delights. It is by Hieronymus Bosch. Hide all of the painting under a piece of paper except the tiniest something in a far corner. Ask, “What is that?” Students will answer. “It’s a leg!” “Yes, a leg.” Then, slowly uncover one other small section of the painting. “What is that?” “An orange!” The students will get excited. Then, uncover other small section. “Grass! Grass!!!” They’ll yell. Keep uncovering sections, until the full, wild, unruly universe is birthed. Tell students they saw this whole creation of existence… one leg, one orange at a time.
Read. Do not skim. Maybe there will be a test.