In the summer of 1912, while vacationing in Spain, Gertrude Stein began to write short prose poems on discrete objects and little events (shopping, eating, talking) that comprised ordinary daily living. Generating poems from such mundane experience was not on its own anything too radical, but Stein paired such ordinary objects and experiences with an extraordinary new grammar.
The three works Stein sent were published by Evans, beginning with “Objects,” then “Food” and “Rooms”Within these categories, subheadings are collected; a random assortment of objects, some of a surreal and largely notional nature; and a menu of foodstuffs and accompanying words associated with the act of eating (dinner, cooking, cups, breakfast etc. ). The Room section has no sub-headings, proceeding in a series of discrete paragraphs, ranging from single sentences to lengthy passages.
It is defined by a general sense of domestic interiority and spatial awareness, with words such as corners, table, drawer, chair, floor, roof, door, chair and looking glass rooting it in a particular sense of place.A second common theme in teaching Tender Buttons is to note how the objects and meals and rooms show us the intimate interior of the domestic life of Stein and Toklas. According to Stein, she set objects on the table to prompt her writing: “I used to take objects on a table, like a tumbler or any kind of object and try to get the picture of it clear and separate in my mind and create a word relationship between the word and the things seen. ”Tender Buttons It’s a work which deliberately dismantles the structure and sense of language, and which has no readily definable sense of progression or cumulative meaning. It incorporates a strong sense of serious playfulness – wordplay and the delight in toppling and tumbling the blocs of language. There is certainly no story here, nor any comprehensible depiction of reality, as it’s generally perceived Gertrude Stein’s Tender Buttons is a polemic against male oppression. In form and function, Stein is able to challenge the masculine definity and limitation that they have imposed on women and language in many of the same ways.
More than the nonsense that Tender Buttons seems to be at first reading, this series of poetry is a very cohesive, articulate argument against acquiescence to any paradigm. Tender Buttons is immediately recognizable for its treatment of the subject in new contexts. By displacing everyday objects from familiar descriptive language, Stein effectively forces a re-evaluation of reality. In the same way that visual cubists defamiliarized the most relatable art, portraits, with new reflections of the body in stark lines and angles, Gertrude Stein jarringly infiltrates preconceptions of household signifiers.For example, in the Objects section of Stein’s series, she writes “sugar is not a vegetable” in “A Substance in a Cushion. ” Both methods threaten a supposed fundamental understanding of private life by attacking that which we take for granted: human form and domestic life.
If an item that is universally recognizable in a certain context is removed from that paradigm, the item will always be ‘tainted’ by lingering displacement so that in its original space, it seems grotesque, or at least out of place. Tender Buttons as a Serial Poem Tender Buttons is not a sequence of poems, but rather a series. If the poems were a sequence, that classification would subvert the entire cubist premise by placing them in the confines of a firmly entrenched tradition of male writers who did not question the fundamental structures within which they wrote. Instead, suggesting that Tender Buttons is a series of poems situates Stein’s writing in a ‘tradition’ of defying tradition, otherwise known as postmodernism.