One must make a distinction however: when dragged into prominence by half poets, the result is not poetry, nor till the autocrats among us can be “literalists of the imagination”—above insolence and triviality and can present for inspection, imaginary gardens with real toads in them, shall we have it.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Caution: Tender Buttons

"Sugar is not a vegetable." The divine Ms. Stein.  

Greetings Garden Dwellers--

Welcome to the first Out of Standard challenge in April.  This is the fourth installment in our prompt a day parade of goodness, and I am here to keep your inspirado at maximum levels.  Today, my toadies, I present a work which has never failed to bring out the poem in me.


Gertrude Stein's collection of poems, Tender Buttons, shook poetry to its core in 1914 and still rattles a few readers today.  Simultaneously considered to be a masterpiece of verbal cubism and a spectacular failure, Stein s book in divided into three parts: Objects, Food, and Rooms. 

In each section, Stein writes about the everyday mundane, but her use of language and rejection of gendered pronouns, renders even the most average subject unfamiliar and new born to the reader.  


Read the excerpts from Tender Buttons below and write a short poem about an object, foods, or a room in the style of Stein. If you are one of the many readers who find Stein's work inaccessible or baffling or just not inspired by Tender Buttons???? then your challenge will be to write a poem without any gendered pronouns (she or he).

For those who haven't read Tender Buttons in full or would like to revisit it, the entire manuscript is available online, courtesy of the Gutenberg project and can be found here: Tender Buttons by Gertrude Stein.....I suggest reading it out loud while pacing with your morning tea.  

Excerpts from Tender Buttons:

What is the current that makes machinery, that makes it crackle, what is the current that presents a long line and a necessary waist. What is this current.
What is the wind, what is it.
Where is the serene length, it is there and a dark place is not a dark place, only a white and red are black, only a yellow and green are blue, a pink is scarlet, a bow is every color. A line distinguishes it. A line just distinguishes it.

A blind agitation is manly and uttermost.

Why is there more craving than there is in a mountain. This does not seem strange to one, it does not seem strange to an echo and more surely is in there not being a habit. Why is there so much useless suffering. Why is there.
Any wet weather means an open window, what is attaching eating, anything that is violent and cooking and shows weather is the same in the end and why is there more use in something than in all that.
The cases are made and books, back books are used to secure tears and church. They are even used to exchange black slippers. They can not be mended with wax. They show no need of any such occasion.

Like every challenge, your poem must by newly written for this challenge and not one which you have previously written which conveniently fits the theme.   

Go now, my toads, and bring me back something startling, shiny, and new.


grapeling said...

An interesting prompt, Izy, but since I didn't follow your lead, I again haven't posted my NPWM pen in Mr. Linky, though will return to read. Good weekend to all ~

Fireblossom said...

Good grief. Wtf is she (Stein) on about?

Kerry O'Connor said...

This is certainly a challenge, Izy! It is difficult to free oneself from the constraints of grammar and regular syntax to produce truly abstract poetry. It heartens me to think of Stein pushing the boundaries back in the early 20th C.

Outlawyer said...

Fantastic. My mind is in a very different spot right now but this is very cool. Thank you Kerry for great example and Izy thanks for the super interesting poems and prompt. K.

Anonymous said...

I don't understand Stein, but I do appreciate her attitude and spirit of pushing boundaries. Whether I wrote steinesque or not I have no idea but, for you, Izy, I tried. : )

Rosemary Nissen-Wade said...

Thank you! I didn't know she wrote poetry too. I have just fallen madly in love with her as poet, and have downloaded the book from Gutenberg. As for writing like her, I don't think anyone can. Well, I'm not up to it, anyway. But I've had a go.

Marian said...

Izy, she is a special favorite of mine, this is a real treat. I spent some of my young years worshipping and trying to emulate Gertrude Stein in my writing. Love it love it, love her. And you!

Other Mary said...

Oooh I fumbled with the Tender Buttons, but I did try to do something with what I thought Cubist writing might be like, and I kept the gender pronouns out. Thanks for making me think this morning Izy!

Isadora Gruye said...

ohhh, what a treat to rise early this morning and already see some responses. I brewed some coffee, read some stein outloud, and then got to my poem for the prompt. Can't wait to read everyone else's!!!!!

Sherry Blue Sky said...

I am a little concerned that this is one prompt I found EASY. Cackle.

Anonymous said...

I am in love with sans syntax.

Susie Clevenger said...

What a challenge. Thank you for my brain muddle. It comes from stepping in shoes that challenge my steps. Yet, I found words on my bunions. :)

Anonymous said...

This made for a delightful departure today. Thank you! :)

Anonymous said...

Too much of a challenge for me, but curious to see what some of you come up with for this. Popping my head in to take a look.

Fireblossom said...

I don't know. I've read the examples this morning and again now, and to me it is just affected, self-indulgent, meaningless gibberish. This kind of stuff really pisses me off, when there are so many poets out there really trying to find just the right words in order to say something beautiful, or timely, or disturbing, or universal. This is just word-generator horse manure and it offends me as a poet.

Hannah said...

That was fun...I'm a little late but I'll catch up later today and tomorrow...thank you, Izzy and all! :)

Anonymous said...

I used to get very frustrated at Gertrude until I read up on the historical context. The term "deconstruction" gets a workout on cooking shows, but my spidey sense tells me she was all about that. Hers was the era of absolutes, both in gender roles and in prose. She simply rebelled. Yeah, it always feels like I am bending over backwards to say this, but she was a genius in convening different types of artists as well as the "wrong" types of word usage. She was a carnival barker, and I love her sense of nonsense... Amy

Anonymous said...

PS By way of explanation, I had intense insomnia. Channeling Gertrude made sense at 3 am, lol.