Quite honestly, the collective works of Modernists across the globe are probably some of the most difficult pieces to understand. For example, let us take a look at the work of Gertrude Stein, the most frustrating author you will ever meet. Her pieces are filled with the ideas that made Modernists famous, but she is so motivated to be a Modernist that it seems as if she has taken those ideas to the extreme level. For example, her poem A SOUND. reads as thus:“A SOUND.Elephant beaten with candy and little pops and chews allbolts and reckless reckless rats, this is this” (Stein 259).While this poem might be confusing at first glance, if one takes the time to look at it carefully, then they can see how this poem is a prime example of the Modernist movement and everything Modernists stood for.In order to understand how this poem represents Modernism, it is important to first understand just what Modernism was, and what exactly Modernists believe in. In order to understand this we must turn to Michael Borshuk’s essay Swinging The Vernacular: Jazz and African American Modernist Literature. According to Borshuk’s essay there are several major ideas that Modernists hold dear to them. The first of these ideas is there must be individuality in an artist’s work. Borshuk begins his article by describing the opening scene of Episode Three of Ken Burn’s documentary on the history of Jazz. He writes that “Burns takes us indoors, into a cabaret… We see African American patrons in a cabaret, smoking and drinking while a small jazz combo performs onstage. The drummer juggles his sticks while he keeps time, all maverick style and undaunted poise” (Borshuk 1). It is this drummer that Borshuk seems particularly interested in as the essa…
…k for doing this exact thing. A poem like A SOUND. can be intimidating to read, but if you just open up your mind and take things slow then you should be able to appreciate what Modernism was all about.
“Purdue OWL: Commas.” Welcome to the Purdue University Online Writing Lab (OWL). Web. 13 Feb. 2011. .
Stein, Gertrude, and Diana Souhami. “A Sound.” Three Lives & Tender Buttons. New York: Signet Classic, 2003. 259. Print.
Borshuk, Michael. “The Language of Jazz as American Culture Becomes Modern.” Swinging the Vernacular: Jazz and African American Modernist Literature. New York: Routledge, 2006. 1-19. Print.
Hilder, Jamie. “‘After all one must know more than one sees and one does not see a cube in its entirety’: Gertrude Stein and Picasso and Cubism.” Critical Survey. 17.3. 2005. 66-84.