Pretty Tilt, by Carrie Murphy

A collection of poems.


About Pretty Tilt:

Pretty Tilt examines sex, feminism and gender roles through the lens of early-21st century girlhood.  Influenced by both the Gurlesque and by post-confessionalism, these poems focus an unflinching eye on the strange, ugly, and beautiful paradoxes of growing up female.


In Carrie Murphy’s dazzling poem “Mirrorball,” there is the realized tautology that “To be luminous is to acquiesce, to acquiesce is to be luminous.” It would be tempting to classify the spinning surface delights of this book into the categories of the girlish, the sex kitten, the raunchy, or the princess, but then the rigorous self-awareness of these poems would be ignored. Unappeasable, disastrous carnal appetite loudly proclaims itself from behind a myriad of masks, but when the tender self finally “unbraids,” it blinds everyone who sees it. Pretty Tilt is a radiant debut.
– Richard Greenfield, author of A Carnage in the Lovetrees and Tracer

Pretty Tilt is an utterly engaging love letter to the incandescent moments that, when threaded together, represent girlhood–young women on the cusp of something just beyond themselves, reaching, fumbling, falling, in sometimes glorious, sometimes garish, but always beautifully rendered, unflinching ways.
– Roxane Gay, author of Ayiti

Carrie Murphy’s Pretty Tilt aches my body like the Sweetarts she invokes in the first devastating poem of the book. Every girl inside its pages is full to bursting like an ulcer waiting to wreak its havoc, your stomach made a tender, loving carapace for them despite their reckless living. Each bong hit, backseat fuck and curious touch splits me open with a desire to reach inside the page and stroke each girl’s dirty, sweaty head. Pretty Tilt is full of a love, ferocity and skill of creation that will stun you like an accidental football to the face in gym class.
– Gina Abelkop, author of Darling Beastlettes

Carrie Murphy writes the ambiguous and ambivalent viscera beneath the surface of the pretty girl in her “tragic dresses,” quoting the canon of girlhood – Clueless and Tori Amos and Dirty Dancing and Disney and My Little Pony. “The tools I used/to write myself a girl.” Her girls are gooshy and oozey and bleeding and bothered and wanting and horny as hell, like craven and craving Molly Blooms.  Like if the Lisbon sisters grew up in the nineties and were not projections but desirous, desiring of the icky, beautiful boys, writing of crusted panties and the phenomenology of the blow job or wanting to fuck a 15-year-old Prince William at his mother’s funeral. “All we have in common is our colossal boredom.”  These poems are hilarious, joyful, dirty, deeply felt, fucked, totally inappropriate, gorgeous.
– Kate Zambreno, author of Green Girl and Heroines





Like the little lightning of the slit where it knits


faces squiggle when I say

the only thing I really want to do is have a baby

& let it all be damned, bedamning with your lowslung belly

full of lead.

I see your honeyed baby fat & lower my neck, I raise

you a gold-plated doorknocker,

& the man continues coming on my slightly jutting,

slightly perfumed collarbones. You’re

less slim-hipped than in sixth grade

& I said let’s all eat pie after pie

it’s good for the bones, baby

then the bones twisted to fairylights

& the big Nativity scene went

all watercolored on the lawn,

almost amniotic where I put my prayers,

each same puked puce

prayer in rivulets, unbraiding.


Here is what I like:

I’m lying in bed eating madeleines & reading about the case of the onion vagina. A man & a woman were drunk & had sex & the woman woke up alone with an onion in her vagina. It was in London, 1961. She thought it was a tumor, but he left it as a “parting gift.”

Sex tip: Discuss merits of breastfeeding.

Sex tip: Advise on the best cleaning kit for your weapon.

Remember that time I had a stomach virus & I threw up after I took my birth control? Your face went white & you wouldn’t even finger me for like a week. I said I’ll Google it but I’m pretty sure I’m barren anyway.

I’m lying in bed eating jellybeans & reading about Marilyn Monroe’s pelvic x-rays. They will be sold at auction by her former gynecologist’s family. The x-rays are rumored to be have been taken before a miscarriage in 1954. In black & white, the scrollwork of her fallopian tubes.

Sex tip: Recite peak fertility days for the last five months.

Sex tip: Shoot out the porch light with a .38 special caliber revolver.

Remember when I asked you what you think about during sex & you wouldn’t answer? so I said When we fuck I see a scrolling marquee of your name up in lights surrounded by fireworks & laurels, raining joy & gumdrops. You smirked meanly.

Sex tip: Tell him where to aim.

Sex tip: Tell her you like a little belly.

Remember after we had sex & I said, Look at all those Eastern European babies running out of me? I’m proud of being Italian & Irish, but really, you & I are both just white. Eastern European babies just sapping their way down my leg.