Tender Buttons

In a letter dated 15 April 1914 Gertrude responded to what the title should be: “Tender Buttons, will be the title of the book. On the title page after the general the three sub titles, Food, Rooms, Objects.” Abstract poems that are meant to be read aloud so you catch the sounds. Cubism in words (don’t forget she’d been palling around with Picasso and his milieu for years by then). Even the quasi sub-table of contents within food is poetic: ROASTBEEF; MUTTON; BREAKFAST; SUGAR; CRANBERRIES; MILK; EGGS; APPLE; TAILS; LUNCH; CUPS; RHUBARB; SINGLE; FISH; CAKE; CUSTARD; POTATOES; ASPARAGUS; BUTTER; END OF SUMMER; SAUSAGES; CELERY; VEAL; VEGETABLE; COOKING; CHICKEN; PASTRY; CREAM; CUCUMBER; DINNER; DINING; EATING; SALAD; SAUCE; SALMON; ORANGE; COCOA; AND CLEAR SOUP AND ORANGES AND OATMEAL; SALAD DRESSING AND AN ARTICHOKE; A CENTRE IN A TABLE.

Words are piled onto each other, spun around, made dizzy to topple and fall exhausted outside their normal meanings. Sounds are favored over logic, although it results in delights like “The sister was not a mister…. Replacing a casual acquaintance with an ordinary daughter does not make a son.”


Alas a dirty word, alas a dirty third alas a dirty third, alas a dirty bird.

And this:

South, south which is a wind is not rain, does silence choke speech or does it not.