30 August 2013

the our lost jungle poetry form challenge: challenge #4 results

OLJ Poetry Form Challenge #4 Results
Let me begin with a story: When I gave the "le stein" exercise to one group of high schoolers, they first had to read an essay by Gertrude Stein to get in the "stein mood." They were not allowed to talk as or after they read the essay; they were tasks to just soak it in, and let their feelings about, toward, and around the piece fill them up--when they felt "ready to burst," then they could start writing. One of the little darlings wrote the following Steinian line:

If I could hit you in the face or ear or throat or anywhere since as we both know since ever knowing a punch is a punch is a punch is a punch.

Whether you liked what you read of Stein or not, one thing that is hard to argue against is that her writing has an uncanny capability of making the reader feel. You really can't read Stein without having some kind of reaction ... and it's usually a strong one. Whether it's a strong desire to understand or figure out, or a strong desire to write something of your own, or a strong desire to read something more familiar or sensible, or a strong desire to hit something or someone or gouge out an eye or two ... there's a desire. This prompt was all about two things: the first, simply, letting go of over thinking things with poetry (whether it was line structure or sentence structure or word sense); the second thing was simply to see how writing from that letting go place can shift the style, rhythm, and in many ways overall understanding of poetry we often bring to the table. No matter how fun or frustrating you found Gertrude Stein, I hope you took something from a reading of her ... and from playing with her unique style.

This week's winning poem comes from Barbara Young. As you read this, I also encourage you to stop by her blog, where she gives us a little history on where the title came from, and some thoughts on Le Stein*.

First Word of a Sentence at 8AM

This is composed with one thing being now.
Is composed with the man's possession.
Is composed with an angular letter.

The music of this is sisterly. Is silver. Sighs
and whispers as the necks of sleeping
geese. Whistles through spaces in
dentine fences. Defenses.
A clarinet is this.
This is an oboe.

This is here. Right here. See.
This pokes. This is a bruise.
This bruise. Ouch!

This is one.
If this seems complex, you
are looking through this to
those and them. This
is singular.

* I received two emails about the name "le stein" for this exercise: one wanting to know where "Le Stein" came from and one questioning why it wasn't (the potentially more grammatically/linguistically correct) "La Stein." I promised both to address it: "Le Stein" is actually an honorific given Gertrude Stein by her inner circle of friends, which included writers and artists like F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Pablo Picasso, etc. ... as well as most of the members of the famous "Lost Generation," which was in fact a phrase coined by Stein. Her other primary "nickname" among this close group of friends was simply "The Presence."


Want to stay connected? I invite you to connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. Please also sign up for the free email updates from Our Lost Jungle!



  1. Thanks, Khara. It was fun to try to mimic Stein. I liked your poem more, though.

  2. Barbara, I thought your poem was so close to Stein's style. Maybe the kind of poem is not easily understood but you did have some lovely words: "sisterly. Is silver, necks of sleeping geese, dentine fences". Congrats fordoing it so well!

  3. Right on B!!

    Love this:

    "The music of this is sisterly. Is silver. Sighs
    and whispers as the necks of sleeping

    and all So befitting of the style! Well done. :)

  4. Yay! I LOVED barbara's piece. A fitting winner, indeed! :)


Thank you so much for your comments! Please feel free to share your thoughts here; I look forward to engaging in conversation with you!

Featured Post

Sankofa: The Power of Known History

I recently took on two challenges in the sphere of political and cultural advocacy: understanding the roots of our democracy and national l...