Michael Shepherd

Rookie (8.4.1929 / Marton, Lancashire)

! ! Gertrude Stein Is Interviewed On American Poetry

Poem by Michael Shepherd

and there was the knocking on the door
that we were expecting
and it was the man
that we were expecting
with the questions we were expecting
to which answers were expected
by those who expect answers
as if life were like that
which for writers it is not

yes, tea was drunk
and after tea the tape recorder set up
so that what I said
I would continue to say
somewhere else
even when I changed my mind
here and nowhere else

and he said Ms Stein
what do you think of American poetry
and we said well it's American
and it's poetry
that's as it should be
and really that's all there is to say
and the man looked disappointed
so we asked him did he read poetry
and he said poetry no I dont read poetry
but my editor does
so I said it's really about Americans
living their lives
that's what American poetry is really about
because Americans move around
and so their words move around and
words in English have lost their intensity
but American words are always on the move
and they are more intense
yes, Americans living among Americans
and talking to their neighbours
if it's not about that
it's not really American poetry at all is it
if it's not about that
then why bother writing poetry

and the man was asking about a rose
being a rose being a rose and we said
for a hundred years the rose
has not been red in poetry
but now for the first time in a hundred years
the rose is red again

and the man looked at his watch
and said thank you Ms Stein
and was switching off his tape recorder

and a month later that
was what we said
in a magazine much read
by Americans who mostly
are not poets no very few but we said it
we know that this is so
because we read it there
and we think that really
that was all there was to say
because that was all we think
is really important
about American Poetry
that the words move like Americans move
and that is exciting for a writer
and that is the important thing about
American Poetry

Comments about ! ! Gertrude Stein Is Interviewed On American Poetry by Michael Shepherd

  • A. Michael Sears (6/4/2006 9:41:00 AM)


    No truer words were ever spoken about American Poetry. The words move around like Americans do...at least American poets. Who can't seem to make up there mind about where they want to be, or whom they want to be...or what they want for breakfast. At present, the latter is the more pressing concern for this American poet. I loved it. -A.(Report)Reply

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  • Michael Shepherd (11/1/2005 4:57:00 AM)

    Dear Gert! Her cautious, precise love of words hid a warm heart. Here she is in the days when she was a national joke for philistines v. 'avant-garde', dealing with a cub reporter sent by that sort of editor to get 'a quote' from this phoney bull-dyke OK? Non-event...(Report)Reply

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  • Max Reif (10/31/2005 10:27:00 AM)

    'so that what I said/I would continue to say/somewhere else/even when I changed my mind' I LOVE that, Michael, and the whole poem is rather effective and rather authentic! I think the end may be a little too pat, however, I can't see Gertrude Stein as putting a real 'full stop' on things, or did she?
    By the way, James Thurber has a wonderful parody of Stein, called 'Chanda Bell'. I wish I could find it, I haven't read it for many years.(Report)Reply

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  • Marcy Jarvis (10/31/2005 10:23:00 AM)

    holy crap - I hope this isn't true.(Report)Reply

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Poem Submitted: Monday, October 31, 2005

Poem Edited: Friday, October 9, 2009