Joseph N. Riddel. The Turning Word: American Literary Modernism and Continental Theory. In the context of discussing Charles Olson provides a neat explication of poem as “field”.
A poem composes a “field” but an “open field,” and may function like a musical text to direct but not quite determine a performance.
It is this notion of performance allied to the concept of “field” that animates in part Riddel’s conclusion to his essay on Stein and Bergson. He quotes from Stein’s Tender Buttons, a section called “A Centre in a Table”.
It was a way a day, this made some sum. Suppose a cod liver a cod liver is an oil, suppose a cod liver is tunny, suppose a cod liver oil tunny is pressed suppose a cod liver oil tunny pressed in china and secret with a bestow a bestow reed, a reed to be a reed to be, in a reed to be.
Next to me next to a folder, next to a folder some waiter, next to a folder some waiter and re letter and read her. Read her with her for less.
After the quotation, Riddel coasts away…
Can this reading be read? In “sum,” as a sense? Or does it dispatch the cogito? Disperse the sum? Stein’s button, her “reed” is a pen not in hand. it is the folded letter, the mark that makes writing both more and less. It is her fold, the clitoral signature of an American and modernist writing that always already exceeds the categories or genre that allows us to read it masterfully. As a question of grammar, a questioning of grammar, it works within the empty categories of time-space, and thus of Bergson’s instrumental language, as a “circular diminisher” (SW, 503), like a writing coming from the future, from the “wrist leading.” Both “less” and more, this writing to be is the American identity — a “cod liver,” like some c.o.d. that will demand a future payment, more or less. For as Stein repeatedly said of America, how many “acts” make a “play” — “three” at least, or more, to contain “four” saints at least, that excess of “time” which is a dimension not yet calculable.
[SW = Selected Writings of Gertrude Stein ed. by Carl Van Vechten (1972)]
The first move is a translation across languages. The English “sum” as the Latin “I am”. It appears to be an echo of homophonic translation (see classic examples in Mots D’Heures: Gousses, Râmes by Luis d’Antin van Rooten and in Zukofsky’s Catulus). It is however more a homoscopic or homographic relation: the sounds don’t match; it is an appeal to the eye. A further appeal to the eye is the translation by spacing that introduces periods between the letters of “cod” to render it as “c.o.d” and expanded to “cash on delivery”.
I invoke the fold to retranslate the c.o.d. to a set of Latin words: pecunia in traditio. And step two: create an acronym: P.I.T. And now translate by substitution (p for c, i for o, t for d) [for more on substitution methods see those employed by bpNicol in “Translating Translating Appolinaire”].
It was a way a tay, this mate sime sum. Succise a pit liver a pit liver is an iil, succise a pit liver is tunny, succise a pit liver iil tunny is cresset succise a pit liver iil tunny cresset in china and secret with a bestiw a bestiw reet, a reet ti be a reet ti be, in a reet ti be.
Next to me next ti a filter, next ti a filter sime waiter, next ti a filter sime waiter ant re letter ant reat her. Reat her with her fir less.
Filters … operations. Reading the reading. Cached cash.
And so for day 1061