What Is Gurlesque Poetry?
Start writing a post
Entertainment

What Is Gurlesque Poetry?

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

1411
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.
writing on a page with a hand holding a pen as if the person is beginning to write something
c1.staticflickr.com

Looking for some inspiration to kick off your Monday? Check out these articles by our talented team of response writers! From poetry to tips for manifesting your dream life, there's something for everyone.

Keep Reading... Show less
Featured

Exploring the Superbowl's Historic 50 Year Legacy!

Building up to next Sunday

1161
football game
astros / Flickr


The Superbowl is the biggest football event of the year, and the 50-year history of the competition has seen a lot of memorable moments. The event first began in 1967, when the first AFL-NFL World Championship Game was played in Los Angeles. Since then, the NFL has grown from a small regional competition to an international phenomenon. Over the course of the last 50 years, the Superbowl has seen some amazing plays, memorable moments and incredible records. This includes Tom Brady's record of five Superbowl titles, the first time the Patriots won three consecutive championships, and the Steelers' record of six Superbowl titles. The event has also become a cultural phenomenon, with millions of people tuning in each year to watch the big game. There are now commercials, halftime shows, and other events that make the Superbowl a true American spectacle.

Keep Reading... Show less
11 Genres Of Music That Originated From Black Culture

Numbers don't lie, up in the charts many times, black culture has defined the music industry. Music is a worldly language that can be understood by people all over the world. You bet black culture has taken over the music industry, but not from the way you may think. I'm not talking about their prominent presence in the rap game, but the origins of eleven different genres of music. Black culture is always using their heritage and ancestral knowledge to transmute the current energy to a higher frequency. Personally, I'm not surprised that many of these music genres have originated from black culture. Thankfully, I've been able to grow up in a diverse environment. I can only thrive in a diversity of friends.

Keep Reading... Show less
Featured

The Influence Of Music

Music is more than just instruments and vocals.

1916
Elyse Music

Music is a powerful concept all on its own. There’s something alluring about being able to cut out the rest of the world, and surrounding yourself with harmonious sounds that synthesize together in a pleasant manner.

Keep Reading... Show less
Featured

Grammy Awards Celebrate Music History tonight

This years nominations has some surprises

3018
Grammy award
Flickr

The Grammy Awards have long been an iconic symbol of celebrating musical artistry. Since their inception in 1959, the awards have celebrated the remarkable achievements of some of the biggest names in the music industry. From the Beatles to Beyonce, the Grammy Awards have provided a platform to recognize the extraordinary talent of musicians throughout the decades. Not only has the ceremony itself become a cultural staple, but the awards are also seen as a sign of excellence in the music industry. They commemorate the dedication and hard work that musicians put into their craft, and are a reminder of the influence and power that great music can have on people's lives.

Keep Reading... Show less

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

Facebook Comments