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Gurlesque: The New Grrly, Grotesque, Burlesque Poetics by Lara Glenum
Gurlesque: The New Grrly, Grotesque, Burlesque Poetics

chicagopoetry, April 5, 2010

Citing a poetic tendency that cropped up through publications such as Fence, Chain, and Tinfish, the editors, Arielle Greenberg (who coined the term in 2001) and Lara Glenum, says the Gurlesque anti-movement inspires radical change by "incorporating the grotesque and cruel with the spangled and dreamy." If there were a mission to the Gurlesque anthology, it would be to begin a conversation that uses the "collision or collusion of fantasy and ethics" to ultimately expose America as a "rape culture," and by doing so, to take back language, girlhood, and women's lives. But a mission would suggest a camp, clique or club, and the editors insist that this tendency has not become that.

So far I've read some critique, debate and discussion, but women, who seem to think that the book's biggest flaw is that it doesn't include more lesbian poetry, have so far been the dominant voices on the matter. My notion is that the book's intention is to challenge the stereotypes created by men, so the book is intended to be read and talked about by men.

This is a review for men, written by a man. Since I plan to cite many quotes here, naming every poet and poem referenced would be quite tedious; so in most cases I will merely include the number of the page that the quote is found on.

This collection of 18 "third wave feminist" poets is a spin-off of the hardcore poetry and performances of the late 80s, when Karen Finley invoked the wrath of Jesse Helms by smearing chocolate syrup all over her breasts, and Wendy O. Williams sang about getting "butt fucked" while chopping her guitar in half with a chainsaw, and Chicago poet Lorri Jackson wrote lines like "she did what her boyfriend wanted / and he finally left her for good / she cried rape for a few days / after giggling the knife up where it hurts"—and with those lines she opened for bands like Ministry and the Revolting Cocks. The militant Sister Serpents of the early nineties eventually found more power in sarcasm than in seriousness, and the next generation was transformed into Riot Grrls. It is from that platform this anthology admits it was launched.

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