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writing : 2002 - The Year Long Writing Project :
May : Question & Structural variation : Text :

What changes when we change the month of May to the month of Can?

The May Question
by Matthew Goulish

Very often I could feel that a change in cares
Is a change in chairs and not only can and cares
But places.

Gertrude Stein
Stanzas on Meditation
Part III Stanza XIX

I can I wish I do love none but you.

Part V Stanza LXXVII

Upon discovering that Gertrude Stein had had an early love affair with May Bookstaver, Alice B. Toklas realized that Stein’s book-length poem Stanzas in Meditation had been in part an encoded love letter, since it contained hundreds of occurrences of the word “may.” Toklas pressed Stein to rewrite the book to contain far fewer “mays”. Stein “repaired” the text using the following three techniques.

1. She changed the month of May to another month.
2. She inserted an n, changing “may” to “many”.
3. She changed “may” to “can”.

Of these three, I personally find the third the most appealing, having been corrected as a child many times between the syntactical usage of “may” versus “can” – with “May I go outside?” being correct, while “Can I go outside?” always sounded better. In addition to suggesting that Stein considered her poetry elastic enough to absorb such changes, this linguistic “repair” also raises the following question for the year-long writing project:

What changes when we change the month of May to the month of Can?


May Structural Variation
by CJ Mitchell

Monday 6, 13, 20, 27
Tuesday 7, 14, 21, 28

Wednesday 1, 8, 15, 22, 29
Thursday 2, 9, 16, 23, 30
Friday 3, 10, 17, 24, 31

Saturday 4, 11, 18, 25
Sunday 5, 12, 19, 26

2002: a palindromic year
May 2002, on the basis of a Monday to Sunday week = 5/7/7/7/5 days: a palindromic month?

Palindrome [Gk palindromos running back again…] 1a. a word, verse or sentence (as “Able was I ere I saw Elba”) that reads the same backward or forward b: WORD SQUARE 2: a number (as 18181) that expressed in Arabic numerals has the same value when reversed.

1. Work with the concept of the palindrome within each entry, and across your four or five entries in the month. Apply the concept of the palindrome strictly and/or loosely, and to whatever extent you wish.

For example, Friday:
Elements in the first 3 sentences in the May 10 entry could be echoed in the last 3 sentences of the same entry.
Elements in the May 3 entry, could be echoed in the entry for May 31.

2. Identify, in a manner of your choosing, the center point or axis for your month’s entries.

For those with five entries, this could be Noon within your third entry – this center point will, in a sense be under your control. In contrast, for those with four entries, the center point or axis might be considered as either the connection between your second and third entries (the final word/sentence in entry two and its connection to the first word/sentence in entry three?); the space/absence between your second and third entries; or the exact mid point between your second and third entries, whose words will be written by another writer – in a sense, this center point might elude your control.

3. Palindromia Recurrence of a disease.

Respond to this additional definition in a manner of your choosing.

The tectonic plates of May 2002:
Seven plates are placed next to each other. Each plate has a structural integrity within that one person’s writing, but each palindromic structure is centered around a different axis point from that of the other six writers. Its tensions suggest it might fall apart; but the month is held in place.


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