‘Tender Buttons’ by Gertrude Stein

There’s a sense of rhythm in reading these sentences aloud, given by her placement of words and use of punctuation. Many writers make use of the rhythm of words, of course, but the music in these phrases is all the more clear due to the language’s incomprehensibility. I will often know the rhythm of a sentence before I know what the words will be, so I’ll write down any words, so long as they have the correct number of syllables, to preserve the rhythm in my memory. I went back to Stein when I was writing a piece called At the Heart of Things, when I felt like I’d lost the music of the writing. And also I find refuge in all its nonsense.

First published in 1914 as Tender Buttons: Objects, Food, Rooms. Current available from Dodo Press, 2016. Read some of it here

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