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Tender Buttons

Tender Buttons

By tenderbuttonspodcast

A Bristol-based podcast chatting to writers and artists about their ideas, process and politics ūüćĎ hosted by Jessica Andrews and Jack Young.

With Storysmith bookshop, Bristol.

Follow us on Twitter @buttons_tender and Instagram @tenderbuttonspodcast
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026 Bhanu Kapil: On Monsters and Cyborgs

Tender Buttons Apr 28, 2023

026 Bhanu Kapil: On Monsters and Cyborgs

026 Bhanu Kapil: On Monsters and Cyborgs

In this episode, we have the privilege of speaking to the very brilliant Bhanu Kapil about the UK publication of her collection Incubation: a space for monsters. We discuss what it means to return to earlier work in new contexts, and why the figure of the monster or cyborg is so crucial to her work, in relation to migration and border politics. We chat about the role of the body within her work, and the language of flesh and bones. We discuss the relationship between performance, writing and memory and what it means to make work which refuses categorisation.

Bhanu Kapil is the author of six full-length poetry collections and a recipient of a Windham- Campbell Prize and a Cholmondeley Award. Her most recent book, How To Wash A Heart, won the T.S. Eliot Prize and was a Poetry Book Society Choice. For twenty years, she taught creative writing, performance art and contemplative practice at Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado. She is currently based in Cambridge as a Fellow of Churchill College. She also teaches for the University of Vermont’s Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources, as part of a practice- based Ph.D. in Transdisciplinary Leadership and Creativity for Sustainability.


Incubation: a space for monsters by Bhanu Kapil

Humanimal: A Project for Future Children by Bhanu Kapil

entre-Ban by Bhanu Kapil

The Vertical Interrogation of Strangers by Bhanu Kapil

Schizophrene by Bhanu Kapil

Ban en Banlieue by Bhanu Kapil

How to Wash a Heart by Bhanu Kapil

Plot by Claudia Rankine

Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics

As always, listen for a discount code for 10% discount on Bhanu Kapil's work at Storysmith.

Apr 28, 202359:13
025 Polly Barton: Porn: An Oral History

025 Polly Barton: Porn: An Oral History

In this week's episode, we chat to writer and Japanese translator Polly Barton about her new book Porn: An Oral History. We discuss the necessity of sitting with discomfort and ambivalence and the role of unknowingness within a divided contemporary society. We speak about he nature of oral histories and the links between translation and transcription. We consider the importance of intergenerational conversation, as well as the role of nuance, contradiction and sensitivity within non-fiction. We consider what it means to leave space for desire and pleasure within discourse on sex and gender and think about Pamela Paul's notion of the pornification of society under capitalism.

Polly Barton is a writer and Japanese translator based in Bristol. In 2019, she won the Fitzcarraldo Editions Essay Prize and her debut book, Fifty Sounds, a personal dictionary of the Japanese language, was published in the UK by Fitzcarraldo Editions in 2021. In 2022, Fifty Sounds was shortlisted for the 2022 Stanford Dolman Travel Book of the Year. Her translations have featured in Granta, Catapult, The White Review and Words Without Borders and her full length translations include Spring Garden by Tomoka Shibasaki (Pushkin Press), Where the Wild Ladies Are by Aoko Matsuda (Tilted Axis Press/Soft Skull), which was shortlisted for the Ray Bradbury Prize, and There’s No Such Thing as an Easy Job by Kikuko Tsumura (Bloomsbury). Her new book, Porn: An Oral History, was published by Fitzcarraldo Editions (UK) in March 2023 and is forthcoming from La Nave di Teseo in Italy.


Porn: An Oral History by Polly Barton

Fifty Sounds by Polly Barton

Uses of the Erotic by Audre Lorde

Pornified: How Pornography is Transforming Our Lives, Our Relationships and Our Families by Pamela Paul

Mar 27, 202348:48
024 Ellena Savage: Anti-Memoir

024 Ellena Savage: Anti-Memoir

In this episode, we speak to author and essayist Ellena Savage.  We discuss hierarchies of power within the arts and the precarity of writing for a living, as well as what it means to work both within and in opposition to literary and academic institutions. We address ideas of consumption and capitalism, as well as the dream of a classless society which makes space for beauty and pleasure. We explore the experimental essay form as a means of capturing the fractured nature of memory and time, and the subversion of catalogues and archives as a feminist tool. We discuss what it means to write 'memoir' or 'anti-memoir' and the intersection of these ideas with gender and social class. We also chat about complex notions of home and belonging, amidst gentification and colonial histories.

Ellena Savage's debut essay collection, Blueberries, was published by Text Publishing and Scribe UK in 2020. It was shortlisted for the 2021 VPLA and long-listed for the Stella Prize. She has written essays, stories and poems for Sydney Review of Books, Paris Review Daily, Literary Hub, Meanjin, Overland, Cordite, Mirror Lamp Press, Kill Your Darlings,The Big Issue Fiction Edition and The Lifted Brow (where she was an editor). She has also written for periodicals such asThe Age, Guardian Weekend and Eureka Street, where she wrote a monthly cultural politics column between 2011-2016, and in the anthologies Open Secrets (2021), The Cambridge History of the American Essay (forthcoming), Choice Words (2019), The Best of the Lifted Brow: Volume Two (2017), Poetic Justice (2014), and The Emerging Writer (2013). She has written for gallery and performance contexts via Darebin City Council, Melbourne Chamber Orchestra, and  ArtsHouse. She also published a chapbook, Yellow City with The Atlas Review in 2019.  


Blueberries by Ellena Savage

Little Throbs (newsletter) by Ellena Savage

Memnoir by Joan Retellack (Chain #7: Memoir/Anti-Memoir edited by Jena Osman and Juliana Spahr)

Bhanu Kapil

Crabcakes: A Memoir by James Alan McPherson

Poetry is not a Luxury by Audre Lorde

As always, visit Storysmith for 10% discount on Ellena's work.

Jan 30, 202351:31
023 Nuar Alsadir: Living Hotter
Dec 27, 202249:60
022 Joelle Taylor: Social Surrealism

022 Joelle Taylor: Social Surrealism

In this episode, we chat to author, performer and poet Joelle Taylor. We speak about the process of translating page to stage and the juxtaposition of social realism with surreal imagery in the articulation of complex tensions around class, gender and sexuality. We discuss the rebel butch dyke community of the 80s and 90s, the queer club as a place of resistance and the destruction of these spaces by gentrification. We talk about poetry as grieving ritual and the necessity of reclaiming allyship and communality within the LGBTQIA+ community (and beyond) in an age of division and toxic internet culture. We speak about the body as a site of metamorphosis and the relationship between language and flesh.

Joelle Taylor is an award-winning poet and author who prior to the pandemic completed a world tour with her collection Songs My Enemy Taught Me. She founded SLAMbassadors, the UK national youth poetry slam championships, as well as the international spoken-word project Borderlines. She is widely anthologised, the author of 4 collections of poetry and is currently completing her debut collection of inter-connecting short stories The Night Alphabet. Her new poetry collection C+NTO & Othered Poems was published in June 2021 and is the subject of the Radio 4 arts documentary Butch. C+nto won the T.S Eliot Prize in 2021, The Polari Prize in 2022 and was named by The Telegraph, the New Statesman, The White Review & Times Literary Supplement as one of the best poetry books of 2021, as well as DIVA magazine’s Book of the Month, and awarded 5 stars by the Morning Star. She has received a Changemaker Award from the Southbank Centre, a Fellowship of the RSA, and her poem Valentine was Highly Commended in the Forward Prize. She is a co-curator and host of Out- Spoken Live, the UK’s premier poetry and music club currently resident at the Southbank Centre. She is the commissioning editor at Out-Spoken Press 2020-2022.


The Night Alphabet (forthcoming from Riverrun Books) by Joelle Taylor

C+nto and Othered Poems (2021) by Joelle Taylor

Songs My Enemy Taught me (2017) by Joelle Taylor

The Woman Who Was Not There (2014) by Joelle Taylor

Ska Tissue (2014) by Joelle Taylor

Nov 28, 202251:58
021 Rebecca May Johnson: Pleasure as Power

021 Rebecca May Johnson: Pleasure as Power

In this episode, we chat to author and essayist Rebecca May Johnson about what it means to bring critical ideas into the everyday. We discuss the radical potential of the recipe as a tool for performance and intergenerational exchange. We speak about the abjection of bodies by capitalist society and reclaiming pleasure as a means of feminist praxis. We discuss the isolation rendered by the privatisation of public spaces and the necessity for communal ways to gather and eat together. We chat about the ways in which theory can neglect visceral experience and the recipe as a living text which anchors us to our bodies and the world.

Rebecca May Johnson has published essays, reviews and nonfiction ¬†with¬†Granta, Times Literary Supplement, Daunt Books Publishing and Vittles, ¬†among others. She was a creative writing fellow at the British School ¬†at Rome in 2021. She earned a PhD in Contemporary German Literature from ¬†UCL in 2016.She also uses online publishing to conduct stylistic ¬†experiments: her essay ‚ÄėI Dream of Canteens‚Äô was published via ¬†TinyLetter and gained widespread acclaim, winning ‚ÄėThe Browser‚Äô prize ¬†for the best piece on the internet in April 2019. Her anonymous ¬†waitressing series was voted in the¬†Observer Food Monthly¬†‚ÄėTop ¬†50‚Äô of 2018. She was finalist in the ‚ÄėYoung British Foodies‚Äô writing ¬†prize judged by Marina O‚ÄôLoughlin and Yotam Ottolenghi. She publishes a ¬†newsletter called dinner document where she shares recipes and thoughts ¬†about food every week.¬†Small Fires¬†is her first book.


Small Fires by Rebecca May Johnson

I dream of Canteens by Rebecca May Johnson

Dinner Document  by Rebecca May Johnson

Vittles newsletter

Abolish the Family by Sophie Lewis

Zami: A New Spelling of my Name by Audre Lorde

The Odyssey translated by Emily Wilson

Oct 31, 202243:56
020 Travis Alabanza: Beyond the Gender Binary
Sep 26, 202243:08
019 Jessica Andrews: Milk Teeth Live Special @ Storysmith Books

019 Jessica Andrews: Milk Teeth Live Special @ Storysmith Books

In this special episode of Tender Buttons ‚ÄĒ the last of Season 2 ‚ÄĒ we share a live conversation between Jessica Andrews and Samantha Walton, recorded at the launch of Jessica's new novel Milk Teeth at Storysmith Books in Bristol.

Milk Teeth follows the story of a girl grows up in the north-east of England amid scarcity, precarity and a toxic culture of bodily shame, certain that she must make herself  ever smaller to be loved.

Years later, living in tiny rented  rooms and working in noisy bars across London and Paris, she fights to  create her own life. She meets someone who cracks her open and offers  her a new way to experience the world. But when he invites her to join  him in Barcelona, the promise of pleasure and care makes her uneasy. In  the shimmering heat of the Mediterranean, she faces the possibility of a  different existence, and must choose what to hold on to from her past.

How do we learn to take up space? Why might we deny ourselves good things? Milk Teeth is a story of desire and the body, shame and joy.

'Milk Teeth spills over  with care, truth and desire. Andrews makes the case for a life lived  abundantly and ardently, full of sensation and pleasure, risk and  safety' Yara Rodrigues Fowler'


Milk Teeth by Jessica Andrews (Sceptre: 2022) 

Saltwater by Jessica Andrews (Sceptre 2019) 

Melissa Febos, Body Work (Manchester University Press: 2022)- and you can listen to our recent episode with Melissa here

Samantha Walton Everybody Needs Beauty (Bloomsbury: 2021)- check out our previous episode with Samantha here

Helene Cixous, The Laugh of the Medusa

Eimear McBride, The Lesser Bohemians (Faber: 2016) 

Andrea Ashworth, Once in a House on Fire (Picador: 2014)

Kim Ji-young, Born 1982 (Scribner: 2020) 

Jul 26, 202242:05
018 Melissa Febos: Writing the Body
Jun 27, 202242:13
017 Moses McKenzie: On Morality, Religion and Finding Space
May 30, 202239:21
016 Yara Rodrigues Fowler: The Revolutionary Novel
Apr 25, 202246:08
015 Lola Olufemi: The Radical Power of Imagination
Mar 28, 202253:48
014 Max Porter: Hybrid Forms
Feb 28, 202258:06
013 Samantha Walton: On Land Justice, Collective Wellbeing and Nature for Everyone

013 Samantha Walton: On Land Justice, Collective Wellbeing and Nature for Everyone

In this final episode of 2021 and our first season we chat to poet and academic Samantha Walton about democratising nature and landscape writing; green deprivation and the policing of green spaces and the dangers of individualised neoliberal 'nature cures', as discussed in her recent book Everybody Needs Beauty: In Search of the Nature Cure (Bloomsbury: 2021). We speak about the need to carve out space for grief amongst the climate crisis, how to emasculate mountain literature via Nan Shepherd and the space that poetry allows for articulating ambiguity and discomfort, as found in Samantha's hallucinatory poetic sequence Bad Moon (SPAM Press: 2020). 

As a Tender Buttons listener you can get 10% discount on Samantha's book at Storysmith Books, listen in for more details and then head to our page on the Storysmith website:


Everybody Needs Beauty: In Search of the Nature Cure (Bloomsbury:2021)

Bad Moon (SPAM Press: 2020)

Self-Heal (Boiler-House Press: 2018) 

The Living Mountain by Nan Shepherd (Canongate)

Samantha is also co-editor of Bristol-based small press SAD Press, whose work you can check out here. 

Dec 27, 202152:48
012 Jo Hamya: Myths of Meritocracy
Nov 29, 202145:19
011 Caleb Parkin: On Queer Ecologies
Oct 24, 202139:42
010 Nikesh Shukla: Joy as an Act of Resistance
Aug 31, 202146:14
009 Jenn Ashworth: Presence, Absence and Finding the Right Form
Jul 26, 202150:35
008 Zakiya Mckenzie: Collective Memory, Decolonising the Archives and Wandering the Woods
Jun 28, 202147:19
007 Rebecca Tam√°s: Poetry as Magic, Witches and the Non-Human
May 24, 202153:21
006 Ren Aldridge of Petrol Girls: Cut, Stitch, Make, Do
Apr 30, 202152:46
005 Kerri ní Dochartaigh: Thin Places
Mar 29, 202159:55
004 Joff Winterhart: The Poetry of the Mundane
Feb 22, 202154:09
003 Huw Lemmey: Flesh, Meat and Fighting the Guerrilla Culture War

003 Huw Lemmey: Flesh, Meat and Fighting the Guerrilla Culture War

We chat to writer Huw Lemmey about queer desire, shame, a politics of bodily love and ways to fight the British culture war.   


You can subscribe to Huw‚Äôs weekly essays on his ‚ÄėUtopian Drivel‚Äô substack here:¬†

His two novels are Chubz: The Demonization of My Working Arse (Montrez Press: 2014) and Red Tory: My Corbyn Chemsex Hell (Montrez: 2019)

His Bad Gays Podcast, with co-host Ben Miller:

Other References: Richard Scott Soho (Faber: 2018) Jean Genet Thief’s Journal (1949)

Mar 01, 202001:07:18
002 Catherine Madden: Slippery Desires

002 Catherine Madden: Slippery Desires

Tender Buttons 002

We chat to Catherine Madden about form, sexuality and childhood.

You can follow Catherine on twitter @CatherineEMIMad and her

Nov 16, 201901:06:21
001 Jessica Andrews: It Begins With Our Bodies

001 Jessica Andrews: It Begins With Our Bodies

Tender Buttons 001

We speak to co-host Jessica Andrews about her debut novel, Saltwater.

References: Saltwater by Jessica Andrews (Sceptre: 2019)

Oct 16, 201901:14:09