Does anyone know who said 'For a woman poet, tradition is patriarchy are patriarchy tradition." Many thanks

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e-martin eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Getrude Stein published "Patriarchal Poetry" in 1927, a work of poetry that challenged a systematized and tradition-dominated Western literature.

According to scholars Karen Ford and Krzysztov Ziareck, Stein's work seeks to examine the limitations of traditional, male-dominated literature and does so by pursuing several lines of criticism in verse. 

One specific criticism Stein's work makes relates to the idea of a loss of difference or distinction that came about through an overly traditional way of writing that relied heavily on tropes, cliches and familiar metaphors. 

"In its parody of Western literature, 'Patriarchal Poetry' is her 'How Not-To-Write,' a poetical counterpart to her treatise on writing, How To Write" (Ford).

We can see this critique at work in the line, "For a woman poet, tradition is patriarchy are patriarchy tradition," wherein a conflation of the concepts of tradition and patriarchy appears to remove any distinction of meaning between the two terms.

At the same time, according to Ford, Stein's "Patriarchal Poetry" contextualizes this critique in a larger argument that indicts a system of thought and writing that is (1) self-defining and intentionally exclusive along gender lines and (2) stultified by a lack of creative risk and weakened by the tendency to avoid mistakes at all costs (in light of tradition/traditional aesthetics). 

In "Patriarchal Poetry," it is not the images of femininity (with the exception of the sonnet) that Stein takes apart but instead the discourse of patriarchal culture: objectification, definition, possession through cognition, erasure of difference, linear progression, propositional forms of language" (Ziarek).

"Patriarchal Poetry" is not only interested in patriarchy as an oppressive or exclusionary tradition. It is also interested in challenging the presumptions and even the grammar of what Stein's poem suggests "might be withstood" by a more creative (and generative) poetic mode.

The gender bias implied in the line "For women poets, tradition is patriarchy and patriarchy is tradition" is part of Stein's critique and can be seen as a case-in-point of how tradition can become a narrowing force, despite its power to produce resonance and offer allusion, etc. Thus we might be well-advised to consider the critique of gender bias as part of a larger aesthetic argument while also noting that this aesthetic bears political weight.