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...