May 4, 2008

On the Gurlesque: Introduction


In November 2002, Arielle Greenberg gave a talk called "On the Gurlesque" at Small Press Traffic in San Francisco, which recognized and described what Greenberg found to be a vibrant new tendency in contemporary poetry, a "veering away from traditional narrative" combined with "a postmodern sense of humor, invoking brand names and cultural ephemera," "a frank attitude towards sexuality and a deep, lush interest in the corporeal," coming through in poems that were "'dolled up' in a specifically girly kitsch." Greenberg pointed to the work of poets like Catherine Wagner, Chelsey Minnis, and others, positing that this generation of writers were the first to so unabashedly enact a literary interest in girlhood—such freedom being a significant inheritance from their feminist predecessors—to claim their share of an exciting art-making frontier.

Since its original publication, others have found the critical concept of the Gurlesque useful for discussing contemporary work, including Pam Brown, Joshua Corey, and E.M. Selinger, among others. In the following interview, Danielle Pafunda checks in with Greenberg to find out how the Gurlesque has evolved and where it may be headed next. This exclusive interview was conducted via email and will be published here at Delirious Hem in three installments.

Preliminary reading:

  • The text of Greenberg's 2002 talk, "On the Gurlesque"
  • Greenberg's review of Chelsea Minnis's Zirconia

    Arielle Greenberg is the author of two collections of poetry, My Kafka Century (Action Books, 2005) and Given (Verse, 2002), and editor, along with Rachel Zucker, of a new anthology of essays, Women Poets on Mentorship: Efforts & Affections (Iowa, 2008). She is also an editor of Youth Subcultures: Exploring Underground America (Longman, 2006), editor at the literary magazines Court Green and Black Clock. Her poems have appeared in journals including the American Poetry Review and the Denver Quarterly and were featured in the 2004 and 2005 volumes of Best American Poetry. She is the recipient of a Saltonstall Artist's Grant and a MacDowell Colony Fellowship. She is currently at work on Gurlesque, a theory-driven poetry anthology coedited with Lara Glenum (Saturnalia, 2009); and with Becca Klaver, an anthology of contemporary poetry on girlhood (Switchback, 2008). She is Assistant Director to the Poetry Programs at Columbia College Chicago.

    Danielle Pafunda is the author of My Zorba (Bloof Books, 2008), Pretty Young Thing (Soft Skull, 2005), Iatrogenic: Their Testimonies (Noemi Press, forthcoming) and the chapbook A Primer for Cyborgs: The Corpse (Coconut Books, forthcoming). Her poems have been chosen three times for Best American Poetry (2004, 2006, and 2007). Other poems and reviews have appeared in such publications as American Letters & Commentary, Conjunctions, the Georgia Review, and TriQuarterly. She is coeditor of the online journal La Petite Zine and Spring 2008 Poet-in-Residence at Columbia College Chicago. She recently received her doctorate from the University of Georgia's Creative Writing Program.

    Part 1
    Part 2
    Responses elsewhere
    Part 3
  • 1 comment:

    The Reader said...

    I'm going to read "Zirconia" again. This time through the aesthetic lens of my own Gurlesque - and hopefully see her work differently. I really enjoyed your review.