Dear dainty delicious darling

Gertrude Stein—how we’ve been told you are obtuse, impossible, all but meaningless, when in fact you are loving, inventive, playful, sexual, flirtatious, silly. Why has it been easier for the world to imagine Gertrude as a stern remote genius than as a woman of brilliant mind and wit passionately in love with another woman?

Wonder why indeed.

There is a wonderful (though out of print) collection of Stein’s love notes to Alice, edited by Kay Turner: Baby Precious Always Shines, You can find used copies easily enough. The notes are handwritten, so some words aren’t entirely clear and are marked with brackets and best guesses. Here’s one from the collection:

Dear dainty delicious darling, dear
sweet selected [enemifier?] of my soul
dear beloved baby dear everything
to me when this you see you will
have slept long and will be warm
and completely [loudly?] loved by
me dear wifey, [your?] baby
—yb

Amazon in the land of oranges—Marcie Hershman

Making Love to Alice
Marcie Hershman
from Amazon Poetry, 1975

I imagine Gertrude making love to Alice
her generous and wise mouth upon her
breast her arms around hers the two
bodies fitting together, strangely
they are different and wonderfully they are
together. Gertrude being warm and full and
with Alice and Alice being warm and full with
Gertrude who is with her and the way
she is with her. Laughing, I imagine
they must know each other, the two, the one.

It is as with you and I. It is
with us as them. She then she and you then i
imagine. And in the act of imagining
make love to love to love to love

inside gertrude stein

inside gertrude stein
by Lynn Emanuel

Right now as I am talking to you and as you are being talked
to, without letup, it is becoming clear that gertrude stein has
hijacked me and that this feeling that you are having now as
you read this, that this is what it feels like to be inside
gertrude stein. This is what it feels like to be a huge type–
writer in a dress. Yes, I feel we have gotten inside gertrude
stein, and of course it is dark inside the enormous gertrude, it
is like being locked up in a refrigerator lit only by a smiling
rind of cheese. Being inside gertrude is like being inside a
monument made of a cloud which is always moving across
the sky which is also always moving. Gertrude is a huge gal-
leon of cloud anchored to the ground by one small tether, yes,
I see it down there, do you see that tiny snail glued to the
tackboard of the landscape? That is alice. So, I am inside
gertrude; we belong to each other, she and I, and it is so won-
derful because I have always been a thin woman inside of
whom a big woman is screaming to get out, and she’s out
now and if a river could type this is how it would sound, pure
and complicated and enormous. Now we are lilting across the
countryside, and we are talking, and if the wind could type it
would sound like this, ongoing and repetitious, abstracting
and stylizing everything, like our famous haircut painted by
Picasso. Because when you are inside our haircut you under-
stand that all the flotsam and jetsam of hairdo have been
cleared away (like the forests from the New World) so that the
skull can show through grinning and feasting on the alarm it
has created. I am now, alarmingly, inside gertrude’s head and I
am thinking that I may only be a thought she has had when
she imagined that she and alice were dead and gone and
someone had to carry on the work of being gertrude stein, and
so I am receiving, from beyond the grave, radioactive isotopes
of her genius saying, take up my work, become gertrude stein.

Because someone must be gertrude stein, someone must save
us from the literalists and realists, and narratives of the
beginning and end, someone must be a river that can type.
And why not I? Gertrude is insisting on the fact that while I
am a subgenius, weighing one hundred five pounds, and living
in a small town with an enormous furry male husband who is
always in his Cadillac Eldorado driving off to sell something
to people who do not deserve the bad luck of this mer-
chandise in their lives–that these facts would not be a prob-
lem for gertrude stein. Gertrude and I feel that, for instance, in
Patriarchal Poetry when (like an avalanche that can type) she is
burying the patriarchy, still there persists a sense of con-
descending affection. So, while I’m a thin, heterosexual sub-
genius, nevertheless gertrude has chosen me as her tool, just
as she chose the patriarchy as a tool for ending the patriarchy.
And because I have become her tool, now, in a sense, gertrude
is inside me. It’s tough. Having gertrude inside me is like
having swallowed an ocean liner that can type, and, while I
feel like a very small coat closet with a bear in it, gertrude and
I feel that I must tell you that gertrude does not care. She is
using me to get her message across, to say, I am lost, I am
beset by literalists and narratives of the beginning and middle
and end, help me. And so, yes, I say, yes, I am here, gertrude,
because we feel, gertrude and I, that there is real urgency in
our voice (like a sob that can type) and that things are very
bad for her because she is lost, beset by the literalists and
realists, her own enormousness crushing her and we must
find her and take her into ourselves, even though I am the
least likely of saviors and have been chosen perhaps as a last
resort, yes, definitely, gertrude is saying to me, you are the
least likely of saviors, you are my last choice and my last
resort.

______________________________________________________________

Lynn Emanuel was born in Mt. Kisco, New York, in 1949. She is the author of three books of poetry: Then, Suddenly— (University of Pittsburgh Press, 1999), which was awarded the Eric Matthieu King Award from The Academy of American Poets; The Dig (1992), which was selected by Gerald Stern for the National Poetry Series; and Hotel Fiesta (1984).

Her work has been featured in the Pushcart Prize Anthology and Best American Poetry numerous times and is included in The Oxford Book of American Poetry. She has been a judge for the National Book Awards and has received two fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Emanuel has taught at the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, The Warren Wilson Program in Creative Writing, and the Vermont College Creative Writing Program. She is currently a Professor of English at the University of Pittsburgh.