Mina Loy
from The Lost Lunar Baedecker



Gertrude Stein v


of the laboratory
of vocabulary
    she crushed
the tonnage
of consciousness
congealed to phrases
    to extract
a radium of the word



from "The Lost Lunar Baedeker, Poems" selected and edited by Roger Conover, 1996, New York, Farrar, Strauss and Giroux
© 2018 Estate of Mina Loy, courtesy of Roger L. Conover

GERTRUDE STEIN, notes by Roger Conover.

Circa 1924. Based on first published version (1924) as an untitled epigraph to a two-part letter in which Loy discusses the influences on and maieutic effects of Gertrude Stein's compositional techniques. Loy's prose statement (reprinted in Last Lunar Baedeker, 1982) ran in two successive installments of transatlantic review (2:3 [October, pp. 305-9]; 2:4 [November, pp. 427-30]) under the title "Gertrude Stein," Stein's novel, The Making of Americans, was serialized in transatlantic review the same year (1924). ^

This text follows the poem's first published appearance, with the exception of the title, which I have supplied.

  Editor's Note: Loy's description of Gertrude Stein also applies to her own literary exercise:   
    "a most dexterous discretion in the placement and replacement of... phrases" by an "uncompromised intellect [who] has scrubbed the meshed messes of traditional associations off them." At one point in her narrative, Loy prospects her own epigraph, describing the "incoherent debris ... littered around the radium that [Gertrude Stein] crushes out of phrased consciousness."   
  On February 4, 1927, Stein was the featured speaker at Natalie Clifford Barney's salon. Loy was asked to introduce her, and in doing so she drew again on her poem. "Je vous presente Gertrude Stein ... Ia madame Curie du langage" (Aventures de L'Esprit, p. 233).

Harold Loeb, editor of Broom, recalled in his autobiography that Loy once offered him an essay that accounted for the obscurity of Stein's prose by suggesting that "the author was providing merely a framework upon which the reader could erect whatever superstructure was congenial." He was probably referring to the essay later accepted by Ford Madox Ford, in which Loy insisted that the art of Gertrude Stein, "like all modern art ... leaves an unlimited latitude for personal response" (The Way It Was [New York: Criterion Books, 1959], p. 129).

In The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas (New York: Harcourt Brace, 1933, p. 162) Gertrude Stein paid tribute to Loy's perceptive readings of her unpublished manuscripts, praising in particular her ability "to understand without the commas." As for Toklas herself, she remembered Loy as "beautiful, intelligent, sympathetic and gay"
(What Is Remembered [New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston], p. 76). ^