Exciting news is on the way about my chapbook THE BITTERS published by Dancing Girl Press. No doubt my next post will be all about that. However, this is an opportune moment to reflect on why Gertrude Stein is the guiding spirit of that chapbook. The Stein who wrote ‘why is there a shadow in a kitchen, there is a shadow in the kitchen because every little thing is bigger’ and ‘Aider, why aider, why whow, who stop touch, aider how, aider stop the muncher, muncher munchers.’ (Tender Buttons, 1914).
Many of my poems in THE BITTERS explore how definitions of the domestic, femininity and mental illness became so dangerously interlinked at the turn of the 20th century. What I love about the Stein of Tender Buttons is the way in which she activates the language of gender and of food, domestic objects and interior spaces. By creating images whose ambiguity is impossible to resolve and using language in such a way that it moves from referential function to self-ordering system, Stein makes the domestic chaotic, the orderly demonic, and the routine highly energised. This in turn undermines the possibility that femininity can be defined in any simple or ‘essentialist’ way in relation to the domestic. Cue, many of the poems in my chapbook….
Not only is Stein is the Bad Angel in the Home presiding over THE BITTERS, but her ability to return the domestic to the wild is only too apt as a description of my own approach to housekeeping. Others may have Delia in their kitchen. I have Gertrude.