Our Aesthetic


Arielle Greenberg coined this phrase in 2001. I will use her words from the astoundingly amazing anthology Gurlesque: the new, grrly, grotesque, burlesque poetics.

“The Gurlesque was born of black organza witch costumes and the silver worn-out sequins mashed between scratchy pink tutu netting and velvet unicorn paintings and arena rock ballads and rainbow iron-on glitter decals and self-mutilation and anorexia and bulimia and fighting back and Renaissance Faires and teen sex and zines and cutting and Sassy and joy and ecstasy and abortion and the Pill and road kill and punk shows and panties and incest and ice cream and rape and we mean this very seriously. No means no, asshole. And yes means yes. And girl means girl except when it doesn’t, which is sometimes.

I decided on the term Gurlesque because of the way it sounds like it comes from  the stuff that Gurlesque comes from: 1. The Carnivalesque. 2. The Burlesque (and neo-Burlesque). 3. The Riot Grrls…

Also, the Grotesque.”


What Villainess Press aims to do is provide a place for those poets and authors who have that dark glamour, who present their body for examination and invite that examination to be both harsh and beautiful. Just because “gurl” is part of the word does not mean that it can’t be a fluid interpretation. Some Gurlesque poets are butch-motorcycle-leather-studs, some are lithe-pansexual-rockabilly, some are blood and tasseled pasties. It’s the words that matter, the art, the paint, the medium, the what-is-being-said.




Wondering if your work is a fit for VIllainess Press? Hoping to just branch out and discover all the cool things the Gurlesque can be? Here is a non-comprehensive list of some favorites. Surely, some of these writers/artists didn’t set out to be Gurlesque; surely, some have never heard the phrase; still, they embody, in one way or another, the gorgeous grit. They pretty the ugly (a phrase I coined).

  • Gurlesque: the new, grrly, grotesque, burlesque poetics, Eds. Lara Glenum & Arielle Greenberg, Saturnalia Books (and all books by the poets contained within)
  • Dismantling the Rabbit Altar, Natasha Kessler-Rains, Coconut Books
  • Slice, Arielle Greenberg, Coconut Books
  • If the Tabloids are True, What are You?, Matthea Harvey, Graywolf Press
  • Find the Girl, Lightsey Darst, Coffee House Press
  • Murder Ballad, Jane Springer, Alice James Books
  • Shut Up/Look Pretty, various authors, Tiny Hardcore Press*

*Flash Fiction (the rest are poetry)


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