Unlikening 'Tender Buttons'

Tender Buttons has become a go-to book for teaching Stein. In concentrated (i.e., short, teachable, anthologizable) form, it gives us the cubist Stein, the erotic-domestic Stein, Stein the abstractionist, Stein the polysemist.

The index of 'Tender Buttons'

As Tan Lin says, Tender Buttons is an index:

As Gertrude Stein recognized in Tender Buttons, which constitutes the first literary work of non-fiction to function like a blind index or (colorless) idea that has been typographically reset, the index is a poetical text and a fictional text it sits next to, like a caption in reverse, or a dining room table adjacent to an idea of sexuality, or the temperature of the room in which someone else’s writing took place.[1]

A conversation with Bhanu Kapil

The poet's novel

Laynie Browne: Is there such a thing as the poet’s novel?

Bhanu Kapil: The poet’s brain changes, perhaps in mid-life.  Perhaps the poet moves from one part of the country to another.  The poet turns to the sentence as the place where questions of magnetism, gravity and light — the forces that bind a person to the earth and then release them, abruptly — might most fully be worked out.  Why?  On a scrap of paper, I draw three overlapping rough arcs.  These are sentences.  These are vectors, complicated — in this preliminary sketch —by refraction and shame: the reality of what happens — does happen — has happened — at the limit of a nation state.  Sometimes, as I’ve thought about elsewhere, a person doesn't get to cross.  A person sees their body reflected, perhaps, in the gelation membrane that extends above and just beyond the border like an invisible dome. To exit you rupture.  What the novel-shaped space lets the poet do (perhaps) is work out what happens both before and afterwards: the approach to that multi-valent perimeter [the shredded plastic on the floor.]

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