February 2, 2010

Juliet Cook

Juliet Cook’s poetry has recently been published or is forthcoming in Action Yes, Columbia Poetry Review, Diagram, Diode, Everyday Genius, Robot Melon and many other online and print sources. She is the editor/publisher of Blood Pudding Press. She is author of numerous poetry chapbooks, most recently including PINK LEOTARD & SHOCK COLLAR (Spooky Girlfriend Press), Tongue Like a Stinger (Wheelhouse), and FONDANT PIG ANGST (Slash Pine Press). Her first full-length poetry collection, Horrific Confection was published by BlazeVOX in 2008. For more information, please feel free to visit her website at www.JulietCook.weebly.com.

Juliet’s latest book, FONDANT PIG ANGST, was chosen for publication from Slash Pine Press’s first open reading period, along with only one other manuscript. This collection includes cockroach infested doll heads, malfunctioning ballerinas, shemales living inside whales, meat hooks, expired cellulite cream, and plenty of perverse pigging out and can be acquired from Slash Pine Press or from Blood Pudding Press.

Juliet’s next book will be an up-cycled, convoluted and overly personal passageway through intersections of love, death, hot water, and mutant sea creatures, to be published as part of the Dusie Kollektiv 4 and tentatively entitled Soft Foam.


DESIGNER VAGINA DENTATA by Juliet Cook

disclaimer:

I have a predilection for taking content out of context and inserting it into MY context.

I am very interested in fluidity when it comes to gender and identity, but my poetry may be too solipsistic and maybe even too tied to its own breed of dysfunction to truly transcend boundaries. It creates its own obsessive boundaries, in a way. Still, I find it somewhat freeing to release those boundaries out of my head and place them elsewhere—and hopefully to do so in a way that provokes.

I have feminist sensibilities, but I do not necessarily think of myself as part of a feminist movement and nor do I feel especially aligned with academic feminism.

conflict:

I like poems rife with uneasiness, mixed feelings, mood swings, and conflict. Those people (including some feminists) who do not allow space for mixed feelings and conflict are probably just talking academic rhetoric. Rhetoric-based consciousness raising reminds me of team building which reminds me of corporate culture with its rote hegemony and rhythms of conformity. Rhythms of conformity are stultifying whether in the office or in the university. I object to passionless rhetoric, to a false sense of propriety (i.e. political correctness for the sake of political correctness), and to a non-inclusive insularity, BUT just because I object to something, that doesn’t mean I’ve developed a successful solution or satisfying alternative.

I like reading feminist texts. However, reading texts does not bestow the same kind of expertise as lived experience. I have mixed feelings about our cultural tendency to think we can swoop in and fix the ills for women in different cultures. I’m not suggesting we should ignore other cultures or not try to empathize with others, but there’s a difference between having a sense of empathy and enacting a misguided sense of authority, as if we are experts on some reality just because we’ve read about it.

In my early 20s, I took an Ethnicity & Creative Writing class, in which I was one of only a few women and the only white person. I felt awkwardly self-conscious, but just acted as if I fit in. At some point, I turned in a piece of creative writing that was like some sort of persona poem written from the perspective of a third world woman; I’m not sure what I was thinking; maybe since the focus of the class was ethnicity, I felt like I couldn’t just write from my own (angsty white middle class) voice. The instructor wrote on my piece, ‘Eat, drink, and be Mary with or without the lamb’ and I felt embarrassed and realized I shouldn’t try to write from anybody’s head other than my own, if I was aiming for authenticity. I like reading about the experiences of others, but as far as my writing, I feel that I should stick to my own idiosyncratic vision, no matter how lacking in accessibility, palatability, or widespread appeal this may be. I risk coming across as frivolous, self-indulgent, narcissistic, and otherwise self-absorbed, but I would rather come across that way than be fake.

My poetic schematics involve conflicted perceptions of femaleness—societal perceptions versus personal perceptions, outer landscapes versus inner landscapes, trying to reconcile the fictive with the real when it comes to self-constructs and larger constructs. I’m not trying to present women as victims in my poetry, but I am more than willing to present them as flawed, warped, and conflicted. Based on my own experience with femininity and feminism, I think I am offering an accurate representation of women’s complexity and of the contradictions they are continually exposed to and expected to channel.

I’m interested in the conflict inherent in my desire to be perceived as consumable, even though I don’t really want to be consumed. I’m interested in how my feminism can co-exist with my low self-esteem and how my creativity can co-exist with my self-destructive impulses. I’d like to think that an ongoing pursuit of creativity, even in the midst of contradictions and certain kinds of negativity, will eventually lead to a circuitous yet significant sort of accretion that will take precedence over self-effacement.

misfits & mutants:

I am anti-assembly line, despite feeling pervasively encouraged to go with the assembly line flow. In relation to my poetic concerns, I sometimes think of the assembly line as a doll injection mold of sorts. I sometimes think of my poems as being resistant little mutants working from within this doll injection mold, but maybe I should be working from outside it.

I often feel in-between, like I don’t really fit in anywhere, like I am some kind of misfit. I feel this way with my poetry, I feel this way with my feminism, I feel this way with life in general. Maybe this is just a self-indulgent breed of existential angst.

I am a woman, not a child, and yet my poetic persona sometimes expresses itself in girlish (or even doll-like) terms. Although this may seem indicative of a strange stiltedness, there is more to it than that. I don’t buy into mainstream media’s narrow parameters regarding what constitutes a desirable woman, yet even as I choose to reject such parameters, I still feel ingrained by them. Sometimes I don’t feel like a real woman. On a more reasonable level, I realize that there is not any one blueprint for womanhood. Yet imprinted somewhere inside my head is a cookie cutter that I am both trying to fit into and trying to creep out of. Much of my poetry is situated in the realm of that conflicted resistance. If I could grow some new appendages like glittery tentacles or a misshapen tail, then I wouldn’t fit into the mold. Sometimes I think of my poems as being appendages on a larger body that is trying to evolve into a powerful new breed of misfit. Then again, if I did grow a tail, I’d probably spend too much time chasing it.

It bothers me that I am concerned with my own desirability as a female physical specimen. Despite being an intelligent and free-thinking individual, I have not been able to transcend that concern. In some of my poems, I am trying to figure out WHY. I am aiming to replace my feelings of commoditization with those of creation. I am interested in developing a body of work that offers a different kind of edibility that is less about commodity and mainstream palatability. I don’t like vanilla snack pack pudding poetry; I like blood pudding poetry. I like poetry that borders the unappetizing, poetry that borders the grotesque, poetry that borders the pornographic and horrific. I am attuned to a sense of revolting, bodily-based horror associated with femaleness and I have a desire to birth this horror or abort it or deconstruct, reconstruct, or vivisect it.

I also like poetry that is funny and disturbing at the same time; that could possibly elicit a paroxysm of nervous laughter.

horrific confections:

Why should art be easy to swallow? That’s not the way life is. Thus, the consumables in my poetry are spiked, tainted, and mixed with unruly baggage, jagged detritus and sharp artifacts. I want to wield provocative juxtapositions related to the intersections of personhood and consumption, especially personhood as it is situated, perceived, and interpreted in the realm of the female body.

I like to bake horrific confections. I like to play with various meanings and implications of consumption, especially as related to my own experience of femaleness. I think about consumption as purchasing power, consumption as devouring, consumption as disease, consumption as death. Delectable consumables, corrupted consumables, women consuming, women choking on what they’re supposed to consume, women being consumed. Women as dessert products, because they are both delighted in and deemed sinful; they are both adored and dismissed as fluff. But if they’re not as pretty as a sweet slice, then they may be demonized. If they’re not easy on the eyes/easy on the mind, then they may be castigated. Our society wants its women to be easy, yet whoreifies them for being easy.

I am also interested in cosmetic surgery; lately, I’m especially interested in designer vaginas.

meat curtains:

I am not easily offended when it comes to words, but I am sometimes bothered by contexts. For example, the word “fat” doesn’t strike me as offensive; it just seems like a factual word—but why do we so often hear it combined with the word “bitch”? The words “pussy” and “cunt” don’t bother me, but why do we so often hear them used as a kind of insult implying weakness?

Carrying this over into the realm of pornography, I am open minded about two consenting adults engaging in any sexual activity they want to, yet I find myself feeling rubbed the wrong way by the preponderance of porn that seems to revolve around degradingwomen. I realize that porn is fantasy, not reality, but I feel bothered by the prevalence of certain kinds of fantasies.

Sometimes when I feel bothered by certain words, scenarios, fantasies or realities, I like to approach those things from different angles or confront myself with those things in different contexts, including contexts that I can insert my own control over i.e. my poems. Recently, I’ve enjoyed plucking words out of a porno context and placing them in a poem context. Stuff like bukkake and bestiality don’t seem so troublesome to me anymore now that I’ve had my way with them by inserting them into MY contexts.

I also feel much better about “meat curtains” due to my own poetic ministrations. That term used to sound gross to me, but now that I’ve incorporated it into poetry, it seems amusing and even legitimately poetic. I used it in one of my designer vaginas, which is a newish series of poems-in-progress that combine pornographic language with more intellectual references with cultural detritus in a sort of pastiche that hopefully comes across like some kind of excessive hybrid of surgical precision and questionable aesthetic appeal.

Some months back, I found myself online scrolling through page after page of vagina photos, pre and post laser vaginal rejuvenation surgery. I began to feel grossed out, not so much by the vaginas as by the surgeons’ captions. “What am I DOING?” I thought to myself at some point—and then I realized that I was conducting poetry research.

I am discomfited by terrains in which women’s bodies on display are harshly evaluated. I think a lot of my mixed feelings about porn are associated with the aspect of harsh judgment of female flesh. I’m not bothered that people enjoy looking at images of nude bodies or sex acts; however, I am bothered by the tendency to cruelly judge these bodies on display as if to cut them down in size or diminish the power of the pussy by degrading it. Sometimes, it seems as if people are so conflicted about their own sexual desire that they feel compelled to try to subjugate whatever is provoking that desire—and I think this leads to a lot of twisted gender dynamics, including the Madonna/whore dichotomy, which is awfully limiting.

It bugs me how some people seem to think that any woman who chooses to put herself on display in a sexually provocative way deserves to be lashed out at, as though if you choose to display yourself, then you deserve to be judged, as though that just comes with the territory. Maybe it does come with the territory (after all, anyone who puts themselves out there, whether it’s their body or their poetry, is opening themselves up to the risk of receiving a negative critique), but it still seems really problematic to me that lusting and lashing out too often go hand in hand. In lieu of what I’m saying here, it seems apt and interesting to me to insert pornographic language and activities into a different context, like a poem and put that out there, as if inviting people to critique these little bodies. Reconfigure these babies or it’s meat curtains for you!

I’m also interested in how different kinds of fetish porn both adhere to and diverge from the more typical porn models. One fetish porn niche I think I’ll be conducting some poetry research on soon is feeding porn.

more:

I am particularly interested in working to enact a personal (conflicted) feminism within microcosmic realms, including the realm of my real life (which is not situated within the realm of academe) and the realm of my poetics. I am certainly interested in connecting with others—in corresponding, dialoguing, and cultivating a sense of creative and/or feminist community, but much of this for me takes place online because I am somewhat immobile and financially limited.

It is important to me to contribute to the poetic community beyond just writing my own poems, so I do direct some of my creative energies towards writing book reviews and publishing other’s poems, too. I have limited resources as far as what I can do with my publishing endeavors, but that’s okay, because I’ve long been a fan of zine culture and DIY spirit, so that translates well to the realm of small press publishing and my little indie press, Blood Pudding Press (and its online incarnation, Thirteen Myna Birds).

Still, I sometimes think that since I’m not politically correct and not aligned with academe in such a way that I’m able to promote my press at academic conferences and the like (for example, I’ve never attended AWP; I don’t have the resources), I will not be seen as a writer with feminist sensibilities and my press will remain obscure (or just downright unpopular). I can’t control how others interpret me or my creative work, though.. I’m well aware of what my creative work means to me; others are more than welcome to form their own interpretations.

My interpretation is that the Blood Pudding Press aesthetic is pussy-centric and oozilicious, but not raw. Visceral in a semi-oblique kind of way. Creepy yummy. Alien witchy. Sexy/queasy. Girlie/womanly/queer. Angry/sweet/volatile/contradictory/conflicted. Interested in longing, lust, burlesque, grotesque, flirtation and impropriety. Mostly I like things to be provocative as opposed to complacent, but that provocation can define itself in many different ways.

I know this has already been said by many other editors, but I receive significantly more submissions from males than I do from females. I’m willing to publish males, especially if they’re pussy-friendly, but my guidelines aren’t skewed towards them. My own poetic sensibilities are more aligned with female-centric content. I’m bothered by the male/female ratio discrepancy in the submissions I receive, yet part of me is resistant to specifically solicit work from women, because I think my guidelines are equally available to all and I don’t have oodles of free time. I wish women would just submit to me of their own accord.

After writing this message, Juliet suffered a stroke and is now having trouble reading and writing, but hopes to regain those strengths.


Below are a few other notes and resources for interested parties.

*

Some of my remarks here were adapted from my artist statement and from some previous poetry-related interviews I’ve participated in recently, including an interview with Cynthia Reeser for Prick of the Spindle, an interview with Kane X. Faucher for ditch, and a response to a question by Nathan Moore for his ‘Just One Chapbook Thing’ column on Read Write Poem. Feel free to visit the Blood Pudding Press blog at http://bloodyooze.blogspot.com for links to these (and other) interviews in their entirety. Feel free to visit my website at http://www.JulietCook.weebly.com for more information about my poetry, publishing, and other creative projects.



5 comments:

Michelle Detorie said...

great piece, Juliet.

W.F. said...

"Reconfigure these babies or it’s meat curtains for you!"

Love love love.

Sarah Sarai said...

"a different kind of edibility"

Your arena of awareness always startles me. Struck with awe (am I).

Thanks.

Sarah Sarai said...

I agree that much of your work IS pussycentric -- or what I've read of your poetry and comments and reviews. You express a duality here and in your work, the ability to be the squirming girl who knows she's a woman and a more supreme vision of her--the visioner being a more neutral adult. Am I making sense? I doubt it.

There's a little voice in little us that longs to be little. I don't know if it's some evolutionary thing or just that we've been misread for so long (note; the 'WE' is all women). You shove a mic in front of it. That's another thing I admire about this essay. It's a microphone for little us.

Matt Jasper said...

I laughed aloud at "and then I realized that I was conducting poetry research" & thought I could apply that line interestingly as a defense in a courtroom.