Tender Buttons Press

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Tender Buttons Press is an independent poetry press founded by American poet Lee Ann Brown, which published several leading writers of the American literary avant garde. Works feature experimental and innovative writing by women. Publications include works by Bernadette Mayer, Anne Waldman, Harryette Mullen, Rosmarie Waldrop, Jennifer Moxley, Laynie Browne, Hannah Weiner, Dodie Bellamy, India Radfar, Michelle Rollman and Katy Bohinc.

History and Poetics[edit]

Tender Buttons began in 1989 with the publication of Bernadette Mayer's Sonnets. The press was named for Gertrude Stein's landmark work Tender Buttons which represents the tradition of experimental writing upheld by the press. As Stein's language play opened the field for years of modern and contemporary poets, Mayer's Sonnets and her innovative play with language are considered by many as a precursor to the American Language Poetry movement.[1] Other publications by Tender Buttons, including Harryette Mullen's Trimmings, Anne Waldman's Not a Male Pseudonym and Dodie Bellamy's Cunt-Ups share important elements of innovative language play while incorporating other major areas of contemporary poetic exploration such as identity politics and sexuality.[2][3] Rosmarie Waldrop's work, Lawn of Excluded Middle, further extends the language innovation and feminist thematics at the theoretical level, with its rearrangement and interrogation of Wittgenstein's texts.[4]

The press' emblem was designed by Joe Brainard and symbolizes the press' and editor Lee Ann Brown's connection to the New York School poets, several of whom were also published by Tender Buttons (Mayer, Waldman, Weiner).[5] Tender Buttons Press is credited with generating non-institutionalized space for experimental writing, serving both the local New York City and national avant garde poetry communities, particularly those of women.[6][7]


In the tradition of avant garde poetry publishing, Tender Buttons began by printing each text in small editions of 500 to 1000. Books would be either sold for production costs or given away, as was largely in conjunction with the poetry economy and poetry community practices at the time.[8] Many of the works published were reissued later by other presses, including Jenn Moxley's Imagination Verses (Salt Press). Harryette Mullen's Trimmings became the first third of the trilogy, Recyclopedia (Graywolf Press) and Rosmarie Waldrop's Lawn of Excluded Middle as the middle third of the trilogy Curves to the Apple (New Directions). In 2014, Tender Buttons Press launched a new digital platform, with two new works: Dear Alain, a critique of Western Philosophy in the style of love letters to the philosopher Alain Badiou, by Katy Bohinc, and a 25th Anniversary Expanded Edition of Bernadette Mayer's Sonnets. In April 2015, Mayer became the third Tender Buttons author alongside Waldman and Mullen to receive a Guggenheim. Future works slated include Julie Patton's B and Tender Omnibus, the first 25 years of Tender Buttons Press in a single collection.


  1. ^ "Bernadette Mayer". Poetry Foundation. Retrieved Feb 28, 2014.
  2. ^ "Harryette Mullen". Poetry Foundation. Retrieved Feb 28, 2014.
  3. ^ Sara Wintz (21 November 2013). "From Cut-up to Cunt-up: Dodie Bellamy in Conversation". Poetry Foundation.
  4. ^ Welch, Milton L. "L'Origin du Monde". Retrieved Feb 28, 2014.
  5. ^ Diggory, Terrence (2009). Encyclopedia on the New York School Poets. Infobase Publishing.
  6. ^ Vickery, Ann (2000). Leaving Lines of Gender. Wesleyan University press. p. 63.
  7. ^ Huk, Romana (April 23, 2003). Assembling Alternatives: Reading Postmodern Poetries Transnationally. 122–147: Wesleyan University Press.
  8. ^ Scharf, Michael. "What Does it Cost to do Poetry". Publisher's Weekly. Retrieved Feb 28, 2014.

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