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Consuming Tender: A Review of Monica McClure’s Tender Data

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In Gertrude Stein’s Tender Buttons, Stein catalogued the domestic objects that influenced her female identity. She writes, A Box, A Plate, A Frightful Release, Objects, Careless Water, Roast Beef, Mutton, Single Fish, Rooms, Buttons and a lot more. Each object relies first on its domestic connotation in order to then be re-imagined in Stein’s perverse poetic transmission of it. Stein’s buttons are simultaneously analogues and object manifestations of the female experience. Her poems both underscore the ridiculousness of glorifying the domestic by breaking with the Victorian obsession with adoring things and liberate the things themselves from our obsession with them. In liberating her objects, she symbolically liberates herself and the other women who, at the fore of the modern era, would read her book.

In Monica McClure’s Tender Data, a book of poems whose title clearly conjures Stein, McClure also catalogues objects, but exchanges Stein’s domestic objects for contemporary cultural ones. She bounces between her own lineage of female writers (Kathy Acker, Mina Loy, Willa Cather, Jeanette Winterson); cultural signifiers of the cosmopolitan elite (Cipriani, St. Tropez, Mercedes Benz Fashion week, W Magazine, Park Slope); the female healthcare debate (fertility, abortion, Plan B); and finally the average American Consumer (Coca-Cola, TJ Maxx, VH1, New York Dolls). However, Tender Data does not appear to be written with the intention, as in Stein’s case, of subverting these cultural objects, but rather is obsessed with them, reflecting society’s ongoing obsession. McClure takes us on a complex journey of objects and subjects that are desperate for a liberation poetry may not be able to give. Continue reading

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