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At The Volta ‘How to be a Chola’ by Sandy Florian

By Harriet Staff

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Sandy Florian responds to Aaron McCollough’s review of Carmen Giménez-Smith’s Milk and Filth at The Volta/Evening Will Come:

In his review, “Strife Between the Tinctures,” Aaron McCollough argues that Carmen Giménez-Smith’s Milk & Filth “explicitly positions itself as part of the third-wave feminist project called ‘The Gurlesque,’” a subgenre that in his view “reckons with and embraces apparent contradictions at work in the construction of 21st-century female identity,” and whose “most hyperbolic, current mass-culture manifestation” is Miley Cyrus with her “hyper-sexualized, hyper-cute performative persona.” Because of this, Milk and Filth provokes his consideration of his “performance position as reader.” He asks himself, “Might I not better suit myself to the experience if I performed my reading not as a he but as a she?” and he tries to read Milk and Filth as a woman, but ultimately fails because “I’m a dude, and my feminine reading persona more often than not felt forced.” Ultimately, he concludes, he best read the text as an “it.”

When the Gurlesque anthology was released in 2010, it caused a fair amount of controversy much of which concerned the question of who or what was included or excluded by the editors, a problem that seems to haunt most anthologists who attempt to coin new genres. But “because God named all the animals,” Arielle Greenburg was compelled to coin a new genre, to delineate who and what to include or exclude in the Gurlesque, which to me is all fine and good, I suppose, because the invited authors had the chance to decline before brandishing the label, so none suffered forced branding, the way McCollough seems to force Giménez-Smith in his review. And here I don’t mean “force” to evoke some unwanted masculine penetration. I mean to say that most of what I read in Milk & Filth as a reader runs completely contrary to what I understand about the Gurlesque. To classify Milk and Filth into the subgenre is in fact to force the work into a space it simply doesn’t fit. […]

Learn more at The Volta/Evening Will Come.

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Posted in Poetry News on Wednesday, June 4th, 2014 by Harriet Staff.