Love Can Be a Chokecherry / An interview with poet Juliet Cook

Love Can Be a Chokecherry

by Juliet Cook

It starts with a multi-colored glitter dress lifted up high
to show thighs wrapped with garter belts made out of garter snakes.

She knows they’re not poisonous, but
she finds out they’re not really big enough
for her own magnetized thighs, unless she sits still
in one place forever. It’s a cold place, especially at night.

She knows another nightmare is coming
when the bird sounds turn into dark moans.
Mounds of wings torn, ripped, pitched
until she wonders when did wings even exist?

None of this is real, so why give birth to more?
Somebody will sea the shells, but not the birds
tiny fetuses stuck on concrete, dripping beaks,
ants crawling in and out of the cracked necks.

Now they deserve to be hung from a tree
like rotten chokecherries.  Like broken ornaments
that will fall down hard, finally trash themselves
into oblivion, then be flung into the cesspool.

It starts with a kiss that turns into a rotten apple chokehold.
Being smothered into nothing. A bitten into, spit out core.

First published in diode 2014. Also appeared in Cook’s chapbook, Red Demolition (Shirt Pocket Press, 2014).

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Juliet Cook’s poetry has appeared in many literary magazines, including DIAGRAM, diode, FLAPPERHOUSE, and Menacing Hedge. She is the author of numerous poetry chapbooks, an individual full-length poetry book, a collaborative full-length poetry book, and has another individual full-length poetry book forthcoming. She sometimes creates semi-abstract painting collage art hybrids.

She describes her style as, “emotional hailstorms (based on and derived from thoughts/feelings/memories) that are redirected and reshaped into poetry, sometimes more direct and other times more abstract. Often on the dark side.”

Juliet was one of the first poets with whom Bekah connected online via Twitter, and they both share an affinity for the number 13 (Bekah is honored to be counted among Juliet’s Thirteen Myna Birds flock). Juliet is a very interesting person who writes striking poetry, so, of course, we wanted to include her in this interview series. Here is our interview with her.

Q~Tell us a little about the poem we’re including with your interview. Why did you choose it?

A~It was a bit difficult to choose one particular poem, since I’ve been writing poetry for more than twenty years, and it has explored various different directions, but the poem I chose is “Love Can Be a Chokecherry.”

I don’t remember exactly when I wrote it; maybe close to 5 years ago?

For well over 5 years (probably closer to 7), a lot of my poetry was focused on loss, mental turmoil and sadness, and brokenness, including broken (borderline abusive) relationships, and no longer believing in or trusting in love – and I think this poem represents all of those things. Body parts, insects, and dead birds have made their way into quite a few of my poems too.

So, have dolls and holes and blood.

Q~Why do you write poetry?

A~For  many years, poetry has felt like my brain’s preferred form of creative expression. When I was a kid, it felt creatively fun, even if other people thought it was nerdy. When I was a teen, it felt like a melodramatic, over-the-top angst fest, expressing itself from a shy and quiet girl’s brain, because I wasn’t shy and quiet on the inside.  As an adult, it has undergone various incarnations and creative phases, all of them individualistically expressive. Word choice, word usage, emotional expression, dream interpretation, and sharing parts of my own thoughts/feelings my own way.

Sharing parts of myself and allowing them to continue to exist even after they’ve begun to meld with other parts.

When I was younger, the process of writing a poem sometimes helped me figure out and interpret my true feelings.  That still happens occasionally, but in more recent years, it feels more like poetry is my preferred form of expressing myself in sudden onslaughts or crafted journal-like entities or repetitive coagulations instead of keeping it hidden inside.

For the most part, my poetry/art is a small scale personal interpretation – and even though I like a variety of different styles of poetry, small scale personal is my overall preference.

Q~What are your poetry likes/dislikes?

A~I like the poetry itself.  The writing, the revising, the reading, the submitting, the independent non-corporate publishing, the sharing, the interpretation, the connecting to others through the poetry.  Poetry as expression, poetry as art, poetry as emotion, poetry as questioning, poetry as exploring.

I dislike aspects of the poetry scene that feel too close for comfort to some sort of popularity contest involving group attacks or judgment calls. Poetry can be political in many different, powerful ways, but I don’t like the forming of groups outside of the poetry that take a side and lump other sides together and judge them and try to send other poets to jail.

I’m a small scale individual poet, not a large scale judge.

Q~What are your poetry highs/lows of the last year?

A~A low point of the last few years involves me getting very excited about having poetry accepted, but then it never ends up being published. This has happened so much more than usual in the last few years that I’m worried it’s slightly toned down my excitement about poetry acceptance and my trust that poetry presses are fairly well organized and caring. Especially in regards to poetry chapbooks, I’ve had one solicited, accepted, then ignored and never published – and I had another chapbook manuscript accepted by a press that suddenly folded and then accepted by another press that suddenly folded.

In the middle ground are my concerns that my poetry of the last few years seems to have mostly remained in a similar plateau, and I wonder of that is too close to stagnation. I can help myself feel better about recurring repetitive content by thinking about the art of Louise Bourgeois, which I love.

A high point is writing more poetry, reading more poetry, and having more poetry chosen for publication. In addition to inside various literary magazines, one of the poetry chapbooks from the low point up there was recently accepted by another small press – so Another Set of Ripped Out Bloody Pig Tails is forthcoming from The Poet’s Haven. Also, my second individual full-length poetry book, Malformed Confetti, is forthcoming from Crisis Chronicles Press.

 Q~What’s one piece of advice you want to share?

A~Be yourself but don’t be completely full of yourself.  Read other’s poetry, too, consider other writers’ points of view, reconsider some of your own thoughts and feelings, realize that you’re allowed to change your mind and your style, and that your poetic voice and choices and decisions and goals and aims should ultimately be your own, regardless of whether you do or don’t fit in anywhere in particular.

It can be positive to be connected with other poets, as long as you still have a focus on the real and true you – and try your best to allow yourself enough time and space to create your own poetry.

Q~Where can readers go if they are interested in reading more of your work?

A~I try to link to my most recently published poems (as well as other details related to me and my writing) via my Horrific Confection website. The online sources I use most are my personal Facebook page, My Blood Pudding Press Facebook page, my personal blog, my Blood Pudding Press blog, and Twitter.

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