Pensacola Girls

Every woman has her Pensacola, that shorthand of, “Oh, me too. I know who you are.”

-Elisabeth Horan


The poems in Pensacola Girls are about abuse and trauma. They’re about the things men often (too often) do to women and children: make them prey, turn their bodies into playthings or objects of derision (depending on their mood), then blame the women, the girls, for their leers and jeers. It is about how men turn women mad, then hope they can Rochester their way out of it by locking them in the attic. It is about how children are often (too often) hurt most by the ones meant to protect them. But it is also about survival. It is about those who survive child abuse speaking for those who did not. It is about women reclaiming the words used as epithets against them, reclaiming their sexuality, reclaiming their madness. The poems in Pensacola Girls are the madwomen in the attic; saying: You think you can hide me away? I’ll burn your whole damn house down.




My mom’s idea: reduce the tits. His looks

are merely consequence. The problem’s me,

a girl, sixteen. Surgeon consulted, booked

to intervene. “You must say you agree.

They overpower anyway. Attract

attention, evil kind. Your clothes can’t hide

what ails men’s minds.”

-Kristin Garth, from “Tits”




Hear me: Our voices are not evaporating; they are growing and we choke out words like: I know you sister. We know each other - as sisters. Our words will eat them alive as they did us and never once more hold us under - waves wash clean in the sands of Pensacola - they do not drown women - they do not kill spirits, nor breasts, nor little girls’ bodies, nor vaginas. We are these women/girls: Dericka, Kristin, Elisabeth, beaten down but refusing to be silenced, nor interred.

-Elisabeth Horan, from “Dericka didn’t ask for it”

Praise for Pensacola Girls

In Pensacola Girls, Elisabeth Horan and Kristin Garth give voice to kindred pains. In a world of cruelty, neglect, misogyny, abuse and the heartbreaking crushing death of a little girl, both writers conjure up courage, vulnerability and a defiance born of love and of necessity. If these are not easy poems to read it's not only because these were not easy poems to write, it's because these have not been easy lives to live. A bold, innovative, fierce and ultimately hopeful book that sheds light on trauma all too often silenced before its scream has been heard.

-James Diaz, founder and editor-in-chief of Anti-Heroin Chic


Pensacola Girls is rooted in an inner landscape, where beaches, woods, and glaring strip club lights call out. Its sound rings true to any woman who has ever been used, abused, or shamed. Unflinching in message, complex in craft, Horan and Garth are vastly different in style, and yet, they reach out to embrace a globe of women and girls hurt or left for dead. Pensacola Girls transforms brutality into beauty. And the result is unforgettable.

-Amy Alexander

Pensacola Girls is riveting, dark, and unflinching in the face of sexual abuse, trauma, and pain. It tells the tales of two women who have overcome many trials to reclaim their lives, two women who also endeavor to tell the story of another girl, Dericka, who did not survive as they did, who lost her voice while they still are able to speak against the horrors they have endured. Their poems in this collection are visceral, stripped to the bone, and so real. They do not hide from the realities and truths of darkest nights and unspeakable actions, but instead shine a light on what must be revealed. Kristin Garth and Elisabeth Horan offer so much to the reader through personal tales wrapped in poetic imagery and stanzas. Their collection is important and timely when tales such as these are often discredited, pushed aside or ignored -- that is exactly what Pensacola Girls refuses to let happen. Intense and gratifying all at once, I was completely entangled in the emotions evoked in each poem - anger, heartache, pain and the declaration of strength and survival at all costs.

-Tianna G. Hansen, founder and editor-in-chief of Rhythm & Bones Lit

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