Writing the Erotic Pulse of Beltaine

Beltaine’s energy is the rising sap of life dancing in the ecstasy of full sensual embodiment. It began with early May’s Taurean New Moon – in which sun and moon both occupied this earthy, feminine house ruled by Venus. And peaked in intensity at the recent Scorpio Full Moon – charged with deeply sensual energies and the pressing need to manifest new paradigms in our lives.

Typically this is the time when spiritual communities celebrate the union of the Lord and Lady in their various forms and aspects, united in sexual embrace and raining fertility on the awakening natural world. But this hyper-heteronormative paradigm is also in need of shifting, and it feels more powerful right now to explore the ways in which the yin and yang energies are both present within each of us individually and collectively. My practice this season is to sit with those rising passions and fully embody both aspects within myself, instead of projecting outwards to an other.

Embodying that erotic pulse through my writing practice, I turn again to Gertrude Stein.

This is Stein’s ‘Portrait of Picasso’:

If I Told Him, A Completed Portrait of Picasso

BY GERTRUDE STEIN
            If I told him would he like it. Would he like it if I told him.             Would he like it would Napoleon would Napoleon would would he like it.
            If Napoleon if I told him if I told him if Napoleon. Would he like it if I told him if I told him if Napoleon. Would he like it if Napoleon if Napoleon if I told him. If I told him if Napoleon if Napoleon if I told him. If I told him would he like it would he like it if I told him.
            Now.
            Not now.
            And now.
            Now.
            Exactly as as kings.
            Feeling full for it.
            Exactitude as kings.
            So to beseech you as full as for it.
            Exactly or as kings.
            Shutters shut and open so do queens. Shutters shut and shutters and so shutters shut and shutters and so and so shutters and so shutters shut and so shutters shut and shutters and so. And so shutters shut and so and also. And also and so and so and also.
            Exact resemblance to exact resemblance the exact resemblance as exact resemblance, exactly as resembling, exactly resembling, exactly in resemblance exactly and resemblance. For this is so. Because.
            Now actively repeat at all, now actively repeat at all, now actively repeat at all.
            Have hold and hear, actively repeat at all.
            I judge judge.
            As a resemblance to him.
            Who comes first. Napoleon the first.
            Who comes too coming coming too, who goes there, as they go they share, who shares all, all is as all as as yet or as yet.
            Now to date now to date. Now and now and date and the date.
            Who came first Napoleon at first. Who came first Napoleon the first. Who came first, Napoleon first.
            Presently.
            Exactly do they do.
            First exactly.
            Exactly do they do.
            First exactly.
            And first exactly.
            Exactly do they do.
            And first exactly and exactly.
            And do they do.
            At first exactly and first exactly and do they do.
            The first exactly.
            And do they do.
            The first exactly.
            At first exactly.
            First as exactly.
            As first as exactly.
            Presently
            As presently.
            As as presently.
            He he he he and he and he and and he and he and he and and as and as he and as he and he. He is and as he is, and as he is and he is, he is and as he and he and as he is and he and he and and he and he.
            Can curls rob can curls quote, quotable.
            As presently.
            As exactitude.
            As trains.
            Has trains.
            Has trains.
            As trains.
            As trains.
            Presently.
            Proportions.
            Presently.
            As proportions as presently.
            Farther and whether.
            Was there was there was there what was there was there what was there was there there was there.
            Whether and in there.
            As even say so.
            One.
            I land.
            Two.
            I land.
            Three.
            The land.
            Three
            The land.
            Three.
            The land.
            Two
            I land.
            Two
            I land.
            One
            I land.
            Two
            I land.
            As a so.
            The cannot.
            A note.
            They cannot
            A float.
            They cannot.
            They dote.
            They cannot.
            They as denote.
            Miracles play.
            Play fairly.
            Play fairly well.
            A well.
            As well.
            As or as presently.
            Let me recite what history teaches. History teaches.

Gertrude Stein, “If I Told Him, A Complete Portrait of Picasso” from Selections: Gertrude Stein. Copyright © 2008 by University of California Press. Reprinted by permission of the Estate of Gertrude Stein.Source: Selections: Gertrude Stein (University of California Press, 2008)

At first I’m struck by the viscerality of the visual layout. This poem is spatially embodied: blocks of text interspersed with short lines and slim one-word sentences foreground the erotic relationship between text and space. Text and space, word and silence, enter and entwine – writ[h]ing in the reciprocal motion of consum/mation.

Next I hear the sounds – the rhythms and repetitions, the pulse of energy in motion, the building of intensity through waves washing back and forth on the tide of language.

Gertrude Stein reading ‘If I Told Him, A Completed Portrait of Picasso’ – PennSound Archive.

Finally, I watch this video that still captivates me every time. The NDT’s movement choreographed to Stein’s recording of this poem demonstrates how linguistic phrases can be translated into dance phrases, how the rhythms of this piece play out through repetition and modification. Most of all, this full embodiment of Stein’s poem speaks bodily to me.

This poem is an image, a rhythm, a fully embodied dance of movement/s. It speaks physically on every level and impacts on my body in visceral and sensual ways.

Does it describe Picasso? Or is it performing Picasso: his staccato brush strokes, his repetitions and reframings, his visual phrasings and modifications…

What kind of relationship is suggested between the poet/artist and her/his/their subject in this act of poetic performance? Stein is neither content to be the observing subject in the poem’s voice, nor the observed object of the reader’s gaze. She draws us in. As she tangles with Picasso in this poem’s text, so we must entwine with her in our reading. This is an erotics of reciprocity and return, where active subjects meet and pulse in mutual co-creativity.

Refusing a relationship of the subject/object, masculine/feminine dichotomy, Stein’s erotic pulsions perform alternative possibilities for both embodied subjectivity and embodied sensuality.

This Beltaine, don’t be content to describe the rising rhythm of life’s pulsations: be it. Enact, encode and embody this season’s juicy vitality in your writing practice, and live it in all you do!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s