The time between Christmas and New Year's always beckons me to think about what is emerging in my life. The ceremonies during the holidays are clues – which decorations call for attention? What kinds of rearrangements in my desktops and altars mirror what I am working on? How do my dreams pull in themes? Where do I find myself moving in conversations with colleagues?
This year the voice of my now deceased wife Susan talking about Gertrude Stein grabbed my attention. Over the holidays I spent considerable time getting some tapes of Susan’s poetry readings digitized. Included was a panel talk about Stein. Her co-panelist was asserting that Stein was celebrating streams of consciousness in her poetry, which to him didn’t make much “sense” in an intellectual way. “ How ironic you should say that," Susan said. "All of her work was about waking people up – bringing people to a kind of fresh listening by very consciously and systematically interrupting normal interpretive patterns. Her work was the farthest possible from streams of consciousness."
Stein and her European friends, notably Pablo Picasso (who painted the portrait of Stein shown here) were consciously out on the edge in their times, using image and language to wake people up, see and hear differently. I’ve always admired their courage and contribution. "What is our edge in this time?" I began to wonder. What are we consciously trying to manifest?