Juliet Cooks’ collection, Poisonous Beautyskull Lollipop, has been published by Grey Book Press as of 2013 and it is a riveting, stark collection that becomes “curiouser and curiouser” as I envision Alice in Wonderland saying if she read it, too. It is a journey that opens your skull and allows your own mind to dance and tangle with her poems. The cover is also very eye-catching. I love Juliet Cook’s work, I wish I were as able to write as freely as she does when the menagerie in the mind is bled onto paper and I am happy to share some of her poems below:
cutting girls out of catalogs, holding child-sized scissor blades deep
scissoring images of women, categorizing them into portals
making flashcards out of some of them, gluing them onto squares
a hole series comprised of busty ladies, in the back
subject subconscious mind to skimpy assets
make fun of little girls’ matchbox cars and transformers
rap their knuckles, retail their brain into bikini zone palettes
slash me into desirable womanly creature over under
conjure up my broken doll legs, sink me inside my odd doll factory
mounted on a strange vase, I am a poisonous beautyskull lollipop.
This poem lets my mind flow freely with the images, and as you can see, the title of the collection is borne of this poem. What I like about it is the idea of cutting out images of women as so many of us remember or are still making collages throughout our lives and the images of women available are often of “busty ladies” and “skimpy assets.” The line “make fun of little girls’ matchbox cars and transformers” just solidifies the idea that women are supposed to fit the role of being beautiful and to do certain things society continues to prescribe females. The idea of “making flashcards” makes it sound as if our poet is studying to be more “feminine” while keeping in check the “masculine” parts of herself. It is something all women struggle with, and men, too, for that matter. Boys who are discouraged from playing with dolls with their sisters, for instance. Gender roles and how we fit in among them, how the poet feels as though she is “mounted on a strange vase, I am a poisonous beautyskull lollipop.” Poisonous because she cannot live up to the strict feminine guidelines I wonder?
The Ugly Duckling
One half doll swath, the other half unruly. This is my dirty-feathered fate. Birthed of the black swan lace, a high-pitched soprano solo of my past, but my present is loose gravel, is groveling. No longer can I make my diaphragm work that way—that heave that smoothes into sweet syllabics. My new rhythm spurts and gags.
Throughout her poems Juliet Cook speaks of birds, bloody, dirty, struggling. In this poem, I imagine the poet is trying to feel beautiful again, trying to find her “rhythm” from before a tragedy that she has overcome. Her present is “loose gravel” and I picture a delicate creature trying to gain footing and that the poet uses this image to describe a place in her own life. I think it is a wonderful poem about trying to get back to “normal.”
I planted my oranges with teeth.
I offered my crush a piece of spiked fruit.
Next thing I knew, he was missing an arm.
Could this be transcendence in a new-fangled way,
or were we just consuming each other? How do we
move past our mutilation into our desired sweet bite?
Forbidden to talk about hunger, we suffer
involuntary movements of the tongue—
weevils, vowels, forking out.
My tongue flicking, my limbs twitching
like orange-splotched salamander tails.
I wanted to chew and swallow, but I spewed it—
a bloody spume of glitter dripping down.
This poem makes me think of the poet trying to communicate with someone she loves and what comes out of her self-expression is something quite different. Hence the tongue bearing “weevils, vowels, forking out” and “bloody spume of glitter dripping down.” The imagery is vivid, I can picture a woman trying to speak and what comes out is colored glitter, and her body gestures strange—like “salamander tails.” How often have we tried desperately to express ourselves only for everything to come out all wrong? That’s the impression I get from the poem. For better or worse, the poet is not able to express what she wants to in a way that can be understood.
If you enjoyed this sample, you may purchase a copy of Poisonous Beautyskull Lollipop by Juliet Cook for $5.00 at:
Thanks always for reading, please click in tomorrow for more Poems Found by Poet Hound…
But what better way to enter this
Chamber of antiquity but ass-backwards,
Inviting the citizenry of Ohio to come on,
Take a look around, buy a souvenir
Made of cheap plastic?
Soon, disassembled and reassembled
Bone by bone, Conway the Mastadon
Will make the 10,000 year turn to the East
And greet visitors to the Ohio Historical Society
Face to face.
Forcing the sentimental amongst us to long
For the olden days when history was still
Showing us its wooly ass.
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