Poetry & Grammar

This was one of Gertrude Stein’s 1935 lectures in America. At times hilarious, mostly serious, but always requiring a concentrated effort to read—a good thing in today’s world of puff pieces, clickbait, and surface text. She much prefers verbs, adverbs, articles to nouns (“any one can see that verbs and adverbs are more interesting than nouns and adjectives”) and has an outright terror/disdain for commas (“commas are servile and they have no life of their own”). Verbs are “on the move and adverbs move with them and each of them finds themselves not at all annoying…”

Pronouns are not as bad as nouns because in the first place practically they cannot have adjectives go with them. That already makes them better than nouns.

She loathes question marks as the most uninteresting punctuation, unnecessary because everyone knows you’re asking a question by the sentence itself, without the mark. Exclamation points are ugly.  She likes the look of periods and they don’t interrupt the flow of her writing.

So now to come to the real question of punctuation, periods, commas, colons, semi-colons and capitals and small letters.

I have had a long and complicated life with all these.

Since it is February, I leave you with her Valentine to Sherwood Anderson, used as an example in this lecture:


Very fine is my valentine.
Very fine and very mine.
Very mine is my valentine very mine and very fine.
Very fine is my valentine and mine, very fine very mine and mine is my valentine.