What Is Gurlesque Poetry?
Start writing a post
Entertainment

What Is Gurlesque Poetry?

A third wave of feminism, sexuality, and femininity revisited.

1163
What Is Gurlesque Poetry?

There’s something sad about the state of poetry. When we were kids in language arts classes, poetry could be anything—a jumble of words, rhyming or not, that evoked some sort of emotion or experience. Throughout school, though, poetry changed. We had to memorize sonnets, count iambs, explain why certain poems made us feel the ways we did.

When I first heard about gurlesque poetry in a college writing workshop, I was immediately transported back to the first poems I wrote and the first poems I loved. There’s something raw and purely emotional about this genre of poetry.

The term was first coined in 2001 by Arielle Greenberg, who later co-edited an anthology on the genre with Lara Glenum. Loosely defined, gurlesque poetry is that which is written by women who overtly perform and react to their femininity. The poems push the boundaries of what is typically seen as acceptable female behavior and language. Their speakers are honest and precise in unique ways and represent many facets of what it means to be female and to be “woman.” Taking a page out of Burlesque performers’ playbook, speakers work to reclaim their bodies to subvert institutions and people who once laid claim to them.

The poems are shocking in many ways, but not so much in others. These poems are personal, too personal for some readers. Gurlesque poems force readers to critique their own assumptions about women; they make readers question why some poems make them feel uncomfortable.

Yes, they talk about sex. They flip the act on it’s head, taking power away from those who normal have it and giving power back to themselves. Yes, they talk about their own bodies. They do so without the shame that is often connected to them and their sexuality.

So, here are some of my favorite stanzas written by some of my favorite gurlesque poets. These few snippets demonstrate the genre well, as they make me question femininity and the experiences I generally take for granted.


From, "To The Man Who Shouted "I Like Pork Fried Rice" at Me on the Street" by Franny Choi:

taste like dried squid. lips puffy
with salt. lips brimming
with foreign so call me
pork. curly-tailed obscenity
been playing in the mud. dirty meat.
worms in your stomach. give you

a fever. dead meat. butchered girl
chopped up & cradled
in styrofoam. you candid cannibal.
you want me bite-sized
no eyes clogging your throat.

From, "All the Aphrodisiacs" by Cathy Park Hong:

you say it turns you on when I speak Korean.
The gold paste of afterbirth, no red—

Household phrases —pae-go-p’a (I am hungry)
—ch’i-wa (Clean up)
—kae sekki (Son of a dog)

I breathe those words in your ear, which make you climax;

afterwards you ask me for their translations. I tell you it’s a secret.

From, "A Poet's Poem" by Brenda Shaughnessy:

and watched the icicles drip, as I smoked
a cigarette.

Finally I reached up and broke a big, clear spike
off the roof with my bare hand.

And used it to write a word in the snow.
I wrote the word snow.

I can’t stand myself.

From, "Some Public Characters" by Brenda Colts:

I thought marriage would be my most public act and performance or my baptism or once when I taken an oath to defend the public or when I was a girl scout pledging to do my best to honor God and my country, and once when I was in the newspaper because I was a welder and a fashion model, and then I got stalked, and once when they used to call me Puffy Coultas.

"This is a Fucking Poem" by Catherine Wagner:

don’t expect too much.

Well I expect you to go into the
fucking human tunnel
I’m going.

pink grimy glossed
entabulature, welted
and tattooed. Enfolded in
ropy ceiling-hangings
but it isn’t a room,

and bumblingly sliding
out, little legs of

a little girl, bum on the wall/opening
pink legs sticking out like a
hermit crab’s, she’s coming!

shudder out the little-girl
legs with a little
girl head mostly eyes, no ears,
bug brain, aimless

Send her to school

It’s cold, and where should she
go, she will eat her
legs with her mandibles

her eyes will retract inside.

Stroke her riding hood
Settle down, little

nobody will hurtcha

by breaking off your little legs,
six little legs,
if you come.

If you had any reactions to these poems and want to read more, check out Arielle Greenberg and Lara Glenum's anthology which explores the common threads between these poets and poems, Gurlesque: the new grrly, grotesque, burlesque poetics.

Report this Content
This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
Featured

What Your Car's Color Says About Your Personality

Your color choice speaks volumes. It doesn't just emit an image for the car, it also says something about your style and personality! It's a form of self-expression. Are you confident? Are you sophisticated? Are you easy-going? Are you outgoing? Are you practical? As you're reviewing car sites for your next car purchase, what color will you opt for? Find out what certain color choices says about you!

100883

When it comes to car shopping you likely have certain preferences, including what color it should be. Your color choice speaks volumes. It doesn't just emit an image for the car, it also says something about your style and personality! It's a form of self-expression. Are you confident? Are you sophisticated? Are you easy-going? Are you outgoing? Are you practical? As you're reviewing car sites for your next car purchase, what color will you opt for? Find out what certain color choices says about you!

Keep Reading... Show less
Featured

30 Songs On My Back-To-School Playlist For Walks To And From Class

Headed back to in-person classes means you need a pretty banging playlist to power you through those walks to class.

87677
Photo by Zen Chung on Pexels

I don't know about you, but I start each day off with a one-mile walk to class. I have to have good tunes flowing through my ears during those 20 minutes, not to mention the walks between classes and the walks home. So, here is my 30 song playlist to get me through this almost unfamiliar concept we call walking to class.

Keep Reading... Show less
Featured

Be Kind to Yourself: 8 Mental Health Tips to Try

One way you can improve your quality of life is to take care of your mental health. As a result, you'll feel less depressed and be able to enjoy spending time with friends and family more often. These mental health tips might be just what you need to forget about your problems.

51416

One way you can improve your quality of life is to take care of your mental health. As a result, you'll feel less depressed and be able to enjoy spending time with friends and family more often. These mental health tips might be just what you need to forget about your problems.

Keep Reading... Show less
Featured

Should You Own An SUV If You Live In A Snowy state?

There are many reasons to own an SUV. If you live in a cold state or a rural area, you will see that owning an SUV is very important.

46709

The gas and oil prices are too high to run in a smaller vehicle. You are better off with an SUV for hauling cargo and driving larger loads around the town. In addition, owning an SUV is more comfortable and safe than driving a smaller vehicle.

Keep Reading... Show less
Featured

Understanding Why Dog's Lick You

It is a natural instinct for dogs to lick

58385

Why do dogs lick?

Keep Reading... Show less
Facebook Comments