The legendary Gertrude Stein was a novelist, essayist and poet, a modern art collector, and an American expatriate in Paris known for her intellectual salon evenings where artists and writers gathered. Her lovely poetry collection Tender Buttons: Objects is a fragmented patchwork of perceptions about the ordinary objects around us. It has long been a must-read for literature lovers, but in this beautiful edition, Stein’s poems are accompanied by the colorful modern illustrations of indie artist Lisa Congdon.
Stein’s verse is evocative rather than descriptive, delighting in the sound and rhythm of words and dancing linguistically around sensory observations. Of a dress, Stein writes, “What is the wind, what is it.” Of a table, “A table means does it not my dear it means a whole steadiness.” And, in another lovely line that defies exact interpretation, “In the morning there is meaning, in the evening there is feeling.” Stein was known for playing with language and exploring nonsense, hence the departure from grammar and syntax in an attempt to capture “moments of consciousness”. This poetry collection captures a certain kind of awareness, before thought is organized into coherent structure. It is the verbal equivalent of an abstract Cubist painting, using multiple viewpoints to better describe an object.
The whimsical and darling illustrations of birds, cups, umbrellas and other everyday things breathe fresh life into Stein’s avant garde masterpiece. The illustrations, created with gouache and graphite on paper, are lovely companions to Stein’s experimental language. They add a new visual element which creates a relationship between the words and imagery. The visual element of the artwork enriches the experience of encountering this lyrical text.
Tender Buttons makes a delightful gift for the literature lover in your life and the illustrations make it a charming coffee table book. Open to any page to add a little poetry to your day! Embrace the lovely nonsensical language, read it aloud to hear its music, and let its whimsical abstraction refresh your perception of everyday objects.
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