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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 🍑 hosted by Jessica Andrews and Jack Young.

With Storysmith bookshop, Bristol.

Follow us on Twitter @buttons_tender and Instagram @tenderbuttonspodcast
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008 Zakiya Mckenzie: Collective Memory, Decolonising the Archives and Wandering the Woods

Tender Buttons Jun 28, 2021

031 Eliza Clark: Violence and Transgression

031 Eliza Clark: Violence and Transgression

In this episode, we speak to novelist and short story writer Eliza Clark about her novel, Penance. We discuss violence and transgression within fiction, and what this can reveal about wider society. We chat about the satirisation of the true crime genre, and the socio-political context which surrounds violent acts. We examine the role of the internet in writing, publishing and how it effects our experiences of our bodies and desires. We discuss the influence of both mainstream and social media in shaping narratives about people and places, as well as aspects of social class and regional inequality between the north-east and London. We chat about what it means to write difficult female characters and the difference between writing first and second novels.

Eliza Clark is from Newcastle. In 2018, she received a grant from New Writing North's 'Young Writers Talent Fund'. Her debut novel, Boy Parts, was published by Influx Press in July 2020 and was Blackwell's Fiction Book of the Year. In 2022, Eliza was chosen as a finalist for the Women's Prize Futures Award for writers under thirty-five, and she was selected as one of Granta's Best of Young British Novelists in 2023. Penance was published by Faber in 2023.


Boy Parts by Eliza Clark

Penance by Eliza Clark

You can now subscribe to our Patreon for £5 a month, which will enable us to keep bringing you more in-depth conversations with writers. As a subscriber, you will have access to:

  • 10% listener discount on all books at Storysmith, either online or in person
  • Opportunities to submit questions to upcoming guests
  • Free book giveaways each month related to our featured guests
  • Early access to episodes each month
  • Exclusive free tickets each month to live Storysmith events
  • A free Storysmith tote bag after 3 months subscription

Please like, rate and subscribe to help promote the podcast and support our work.

Sep 25, 202359:29
030 Octavia Bright: Writing from Life

030 Octavia Bright: Writing from Life

In this special live episode, we speak to writer and broadcaster Octavia Bright about her memoir, This Ragged Grace. We discuss the ways in which Octavia's roles as an interviewer, carer and linguist informed her process as an active listener and developed her writing voice. We explore the distinction between the pornographic and the erotic in relation to memoir writing, and discuss the process of revealing and concealment when writing from lived experience. We chat about the importance of images and symbols in articulating trauma, with reference to Louise Bourgeois' 'Spiral Woman' as a symbol which holds contradictions within recovery. We speak about the interweaving of presence, loss, memory and history within writing and discuss the influence of artists and writers such as Louise Bourgeois, Deborah Levy and Marlene Dumas on Octavia's work.

Octavia Bright is a writer and broadcaster. She co-hosts Literary Friction, the literary podcast and NTS Radio show, with Carrie Plitt. Recommended by The New York Times, Guardian, BBC Culture, Electric Literature, The Sunday Times and others, it has run for ten years and has listeners worldwide. She also presents programmes for BBC R4 including Open Book, and hosts literary events for bookshops, publishers, and festivals – such as Cheltenham Literature Festival and events for The Southbank Centre. Her writing has been published in a number of magazines including the White Review, Harper’s Bazaar, ELLE, Wasafiri, Somesuch Stories, and The Sunday Times, amongst others. She has a PhD from UCL where she wrote about hysteria and desire in Spanish cinema.


This Ragged Grace by Octavia Bright

Living Autobiography series by Deborah Levy

Louise Bourgeois

Marlene Dumas

As always, listen for the discount code and visit Storysmith for 10% discount on Octavia's work.

Aug 25, 202356:06
029 Isabel Waidner: Liberating the Canon

029 Isabel Waidner: Liberating the Canon

In this episode, we chat to Isabel Waidner about their new novel, Corey Fah Does Social Mobility. We discuss the notion of 'liberating the canon' and the role of formal innovation in representing marginalised perspectives across gender, sexuality, social class and race. We explore the queering of the Bambi figure in Corey Fah Does Social Mobility, the radical importance of acknowledging references and transdisciplinary approaches to art-making. We discuss the role of football and music as traditional ways for working-class people to access 'social mobility' and consider how literature might fit within this. We explore the queering of time and history within the novel and highlight the necessity of balancing a critique of society with the liberatory potential of queer imaginaries. We dicuss the gatekeeping of the literary establishment, the false promises of meritocracy in awards culture and the commodification of art, exploring the limitations of neoliberalism.

Isabel Waidner is a writer based in London. They are the author of Corey Fah Does Social Mobility, Sterling Karat Gold, We Are Made of Diamond Stuff and Gaudy Bauble. They won the Goldsmiths Prize 2021 and were shortlisted for the Goldsmiths Prize in 2019, the Orwell Prize for Political Fiction in 2022 and the Republic of Consciousness Prize in 2018, 2020 and 2022. They are a co-founder of the event series Queers Read This at the Institute of Contemporary Arts and they are an academic in the School of English and Drama at Queen Mary University of London.


Liberating the Canon: An Anthology of Innovative Literature by Isabel Waidner

We Are Made of Diamond Stuff by Isabel Waidner

Sterling Carat Gold by Isabel Waidner

Corey Fah Does Social Mobility by Isabael Waidner

An Alternative Art History of the 1990s by Isabel Waidner (Frieze)

All Us Girls Have Been Dead for So Long by Linda Stupart and Carl Gent

Nicole Eisenman, Bambi Gregor, India ink on paper, 1993

John Lahr, Prick Up Your Ears, 1978

Loot by Joe Orton

As always, listen for the code and visit Storysmith for 10% discount on Isabel's work

Jul 31, 202350:26
028 Siân Norris: Bodies Under Siege

028 Siân Norris: Bodies Under Siege

In this episode, we speak to investigative journalist Siân Norris about her new book, Bodies Under Siege. We discuss the rise of far-right ideology across the world, and the ways in which fascism and the struggle for reproductive rights are inextricably linked. We consider the ways in which global anti-abortion networks are connected to movements which are underpinned by white supremacy and hostile to LGBTQIA+ rights. We think about the influence of these movements across the world, including their access to funding, their co-opting of feminist language and tactics used by the far-right to secure the support of women in their world as mothers, such as tradwifes and gender critical feminists. We discuss the possibilties of reproductive justice for women across the world, and consider the ways in which we might build a better world through the international reproductive justice movements, centered on resistance and solidarity.

Siân Norris is a writer and investigative journalist who has covered far-right movements and their relocation to the mainstream for a range of publications, including the UK's Byline Times and openDemocracy. Norris is a leading voice in the UK feminist movement and her writing on issues ranging from men's violence against women, to migrant rights, and poverty and inequality, has been published in the Guardian, New Statesman, the i, and many more publications. In 2012 she set up the Bristol Women's Literature Festival, which she ran for eight years


Bodies Under Siege: How the Far-Right Attack on Reproductive Rights Went Global by Siân Norris

Experiments in Imagining Otherwise by Lola Olufemi

Racism, Birth Control and Reproductive Rights by Angela Davis

Voyage in the Dark by Jean Rhys

Happening by Annie Ernaux

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

Jun 26, 202351:40
027 Preti Taneja: On Radical Doubt and Radical Hope

027 Preti Taneja: On Radical Doubt and Radical Hope

In this episode, we speak to Preti Taneja about her brilliant book, Aftermath. We discuss the ways in which individual actions are mapped onto societal, national and global histories and inequalities. We consider the paradoxical limits of language and writing to articulate grief, as well as a return to other radical writers and thinkers. We discuss the oppression of the prison industrial complex system and its relationship to racism within the UK education system. We speak about the use of shame to denigrate marginalised people and the erasure of colonial and imperial history within schools. We discuss the role of fictions, both within literature and within society, and the ways in which particular narratives have the potential to imprison or empancipate people. We consider the gatekeeping within contemporary literary culture and wonder what literature could look like in a more equitable world.

Preti Taneja is a writer and activist. Her debut novel We That Are Young (Galley Beggar Press, 2017) won the Desmond Elliott Prize for the finest literary debut novel of the year and was listed for awards including the Folio Prize, the Shakti Bhatt First Book Prize and the Prix Jan Michalski, Europe's premier award for a work of world literature. Her second book, Aftermath (And Other Stories, 2021) won the Gordon Burn Prize in 2022 and was a New Yorker notable book, a New Yorker best book of the year, a White Review book of the year, New Statesman book of the year in 2021 and in 2022, and shortlisted for British Book of the Year - Discover. Her writing has been published in The White Review, the Guardian, Vogue India, the New Statesman, Granta, INQUE and in anthologies of short stories, essays, literary criticism and prose poetry. She has taught writing in prisons, worked with arts practitioners around the world mediating their own conflict and post conflict zones, and with young people across deprived parts of the UK who want to get published. She is Professor of World Literature and Creative Writing at Newcastle University, and Director of the Newcastle Centre for the Literary Arts (NCLA). In 2022 Preti was named winner of the prestigious Philip Leverhulme Prize in Languages and Literatures 'for her work on combining ethics, politics and aesthetics; developing pioneering hybrid creative forms, including via literary prose to advocate for minority rights.' She is a Contributing Editor for The White Review magazine, and for the multi-award winning independent press And Other Stories, for which she accepts submissions of full manuscripts.


We That Are Young by Preti Taneja

Aftermath by Preti Taneja

Axiomatic by Maria Tumarkin

Adrienne Rich

Ruth Wilson Gilmore

Angela Davis

Visit Storysmith for 10% discount on Preti's work.

May 30, 202345:41
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 GrantaCatapult, 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 ‘I Dream of Canteens’ was published via  TinyLetter and gained widespread acclaim, winning ‘The Browser’ prize  for the best piece on the internet in April 2019. Her anonymous  waitressing series was voted in the Observer Food Monthly ‘Top  50’ of 2018. She was finalist in the ‘Young British Foodies’ writing  prize judged by Marina O’Loughlin 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 — the last of Season 2 — 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 Tamás: 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’s weekly essays on his ‘Utopian Drivel’ 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