gabby bess

Growing up, I didn’t read novels by women. It’s not that I didn’t want to. It’s almost like I didn’t think that I needed to or, I guess, I didn’t know that I needed to. I was perfectly happy in a world contained by men. I adopted the posture of the brooding male as my own. I was Salinger, I was Kerouac, I was any male protagonist in a novel that one of my boyfriends recommended. I didn’t know that there was a specific female sadness so I was content with relating to a generalized one. And in a way, reading these novels was less of a way to relate and more of a way to learn how to be the type of girl that these male novelists liked. One of my first ambitions wasn’t to be a writer – it was to be a writer’s muse.
—  Gabby Bess, in Dazed

Alternatives to Alternatives: the Black Grrrls Riot Ignored

‘The Riot Grrrl box may have been decidedly off-limits in the eyes of Brown and other black women who couldn’t see themselves in the movement, but as Davis points out, these women shirked boxes, created their own wave, and reclaimed rock for black women. After all, rock music is black music. While the Sista Grrrls didn’t see themselves in Riot Grrrl or in the men they had been playing with in bands, they saw themselves in each other. “I got what Riot Grrrl was about. I didn’t think it was exclusive, but it didn’t feel inclusive to me,” said Brown. “I didn’t see myself or my story, and so that’s why Sista Grrrl came about later on–out of other women of color that I knew who were punk rock and navigated that scene and had similar feelings about it. Sista Grrrl was my response to Riot Grrrl because it just felt super white."’

Starting from birth, feel vaguely confused and out of place.

Tracey Emin starts her memoir Strangeland with an anecdote from her birth: “At the moment of my birth into this world, I somehow felt a mistake had been made. I couldn’t scream or cry or argue my case. I just lay motionless, wishing I could go back to where I’d come from.”

You know this feeling. You get over it.

—  How To Be A Female Artist (Via Dazed Digital
Post-Swallow: Original poem by Gabby Bess

I have a friend who keeps telling me that she just wants to be a normal girl but then changes her mind and continues to act strangely, which I like and admire. (Specifically the part about indecision and unwillingness to commit.) I guess it’s true that there are different types of girls that you can be at any given time. At most, I was probably 24 different girls at once. I’m not a callous girl, or an unfeeling one, but I’m certainly not a lonely girl. Or a sad one. In the hotel room, I just wanted to be one of many. I wanted each individual act of living on our bed to be anthologized, highlighted in their glut. There is something in being where so many bodies have been that I can romanticize easily. The sheets were neither mine nor yours but I ate them anyway. We stood the excitement of ruining that which belonged to no one. There was nothing on the walls – just prints of flowers and fruits from some generic retailer. The title of my memoir will be Still Life. You know as well as I do that to entertain a new person is just an exercise in amusement. I could perform all my faces for you and it would be a nu romance. But tru love? I don’t know about that. A forgetful girl, I left comfort on some shore that I sometimes imagined returning to – though it seemed more like a fantasy now. I could never return because, for example, I started dreaming of libraries, consuming bodies and swallowing human hair. I’m ruined and I belong to no one now. There are strangers whose hair I eat on accident. And then there is my own hair that I chew on deliberately. And then there is your hair that I patiently swallow at night. And then there are always other things that can’t be accounted for and unfortunately, there is this new sadness that hangs over us. But I ate the sadness. And when it wouldn’t fall away, I ate your body with the sky still attached to it. And when you called me a curious girl, the whole room took blueish tint. We became so quiet. Our own bodies towered over us in the absence of other images on the wall. To replace genuine feeling, I started performing this person who marveled at small things and I just wanted to touch everything at once. I just wanted. I was a Good Girl. I just wanted. I guess it’s true that I probably pout more now than I did in 2012. I guess it’s just the new thing that I do in the bathtub or at a restaurant when I’m subtly pushing my tits together and you’re not noticing. I just let the juice from the watermelon drip down my fingers and I licked them clean. I threaded my wet fingers through the handle of the mug that said #1 WIFE, though I didn’t deserve it. Oh well. I just hope that when you picture my body, I am two fingernail painting emojis and a knife emoji.

Post-Swallow: Original poem by Gabby Bess for WONDER.

Follow Gabby at seemstween

If originality is a “sense of novelty and freshness” then, in the act of constructing ourselves, originality is not the goal. We construct a self-portrait, relying on existing objects – books, quotes from authors and artists, images, art – that we are more than happy to show off to others for them to use as masturbation material or for the material by which they align themselves. This is the new action painting – the curational archive. The referential self portrait. The portrait of any other artist could be readily used to explain yourself, just reblog it and caption it with “same.” The past consistently becomes the present, not through linear time, but through the constant reconstruction and relabeling of it
—  Gabby Bess

Gabby Bess reading poems. Amazing. Just watch.


This week on A Cups, Ann and Angela interviewed prolific writer and founder of the Illuminati Girl Gang, Gabby Bess to discuss her recently published book Alone With Other People and more. We talked publishing zines, social media + audiences, female companionship, being 20, sexism in writing, self-organizing, “alt lit”, and much more. We also talked about selfies because…why not? Also Gabby has really awesome ones.

Thanks to everyone at Radiohive! The show wouldn’t exist without your support <3. Also thanks again to Mary Prankster (one of my adolescent heroes) for allowing us to play her song Piss Off in our intro. 

Also hey did I mention that you can download all of our past episodes on iTunes? You know you want that shit. xoxo


Girls Get Busy Review: Gabby BessAlone with Other People

Ana engages with Gabby’s book, a long with other works of art.

I first read Gabby Bess’ Alone With Other People almost three months ago. I had just moved to a new city. I applied the mask of the “young female creative professional living in Brooklyn.” I exerted ambition and self-assurance, and openness, and confidence. My rituals of greeting new acquaintances, my Internet activities, my movements through crowded subway stops, entailed performative acts of self-realizing. Selfies, social media, silent stares from strangers. Fake it till you make it.

Alone With Other People combines a selection of varying poetic formats that evoke the very displacement Bess expresses within her writing. I read the book in one sit and felt a little sad and a little lost afterwards. Filled with sad humor and disillusionment, I felt like Bess reflected something I have felt and could not put into words—the displaced exhaustion following all of the emotional labor necessary in performing myself. Bess’s novel is in conversation with the various iterations of self-portraiture that have left women straddling between the burdening freedom of self-making with the continually engrained mandate to perform the Young-Girl. Bess writes:

From here I constructed my identity
and set it aside for myself and others to admire.
When I give advice it is essentially saying, “Oh,
be more like me” and I can say that and point
to a diagram that I have drawn up in the time
that I have spent alone, bettering myself.

If we follow Judith Butler and call gender a performance with no final act, only an eternal reprise of self-making, at what point do we separate performing for others from performing alone? Self-portraiture, particularly when the self in making is female, has deformed into an act of alienation, of severing and denial. Bess’s collection, if read as a form self-portraiture, manages to reveal both the emotional labor of this performance with the bruised and lonely confusion meddling within. I saw in Bess’s poetry what I saw in Goldin’s bloodied eyes—a female gaze, eternally performing for the camera, peering with despair, hoping for someone to look back and see themselves within.

Buy Alone With Other People by Gabby Bess here.

- Ana


Luna says that all the sad, lonely girls died from the cancer of being a woman.


Do I have this vulvic sickness too?


What I do know for sure is that I have this thing with addiction:

It started with cigarettes

and adderall

and number games

and wrapping my hair around my fingers

and playing with my boyfriend’s balls

and two vaginas rubbing against each other

and HBO mini-series

and Netflix original series

and blogging

and GIFs of baby animals

and ordering pizza

and cleansing myself of pizza

and the routine of quitting

and collecting books that I will never read

and poetry

and email

and weed

and money

and institutional acceptance

and awards for genius

and storing handguns in my cunt

and recognizing TV tropes by name

and feeling wanted

and feeling neglected

and feeling wanted while being neglected

and spit in mouths

and coffee

and validation

and Ben Lerner

and my own name

and cocks

and specifically cocks in lace underwear

and pictures saturated with light

and making plans to see friends who are in different countries

            like Paris

            like UK

            like Spain

            like Canada

            like South Brooklyn

and feeling in control  

and loving myself

and feeling out of control

and hating myself

and the internet.


The internet…


Yeah, it started with just those things

and it never ended.