Growling Softly
Blood Pudding Press, 2007
Price $7
Edited by Juliet Cook

Review by Rachel Kendall

Sumptious, sexy, glossy, dangerous, voluptuous… are some of the words that sprang immediately to mind when I first held in my hands the new poetry chapbook from Blood Pudding Press, edited by Juliet Cook. Never have I been so undecided whether to rip open the covers of the book in front of me, like tearing the rind off a plump fruit, or put it behind glass, its own coffin, free of sticky finger tips, cigarette smoke and babies breath. It's as glossy as freshly painted lips, shiny as cut glass and just as cruelly enticing. And the title, the title, growling softly. A threat, a warning, a guttural sigh. Each copy is one of a kind, with the editrix obviously spending a lot of time and delight putting each together with ribbon and lace. The paper is sepia, a little jagged at the edges. It is high-quality bordello, stinking of sex (almost) and joie de vivre.

But, the thing is to be read. It is not here simply for my visual enjoyment. So, to its 'sticky innards', what is the poetry inside actually like? Well I won't say I savoured every piece, but out of 41, most are spine-tinglingly excellent while the rest are good. I didn't dislike a single poem, only, the subject or rhythm of some appealed more than others.

There's a whole gamut of sordid little packages here, dirty bundles of stanzas, pert verses and rancid subjects oozing from every page.

There are poems about phantom limbs,

I am more than what a knifenip left me with -
Mended boots, slipstump, limb-bound and sacking,
A leg toothed in steel. An appliance.
One half a set of scissors

(Fleur and the Phantom Limb, Melissa Culbertson)

chick flicks, strap-ons, girls in cakes, murder, sexual orientation, pissed off dolls,

I have ribboned my worsted hair into snarls.
I'm given to thirsting.
I'm crammed to near-bursting.
My pillow-self swells to a flammable pitch.
I am a glitch in your history.
An itchy adultery

(Rag[e] Doll, Jill Alexander Essbaum)

mermaids, a poet who sources Sylvia Plath and Philip K Dick's 'A Scanner Darkly', a poem called 'From the book, Wicked Pass Times for the Girl with Pins in Her Heart' with details on how to start a cock collection. There are poems sticky with imagery and others more subtlely engaging.

Hide and Seek

Girls' slips get caught on windowsills cheeks and elbows shine in the dim yard whispers carry all the way to the attic their scent (all lavender confusion) carries downwind they hide in plain sight under the front porch behind the rose bush in the apple tree they beg to be found bite their wet tongues in anticipation of the tickle the pinching they swoon from boredom sitting still crying lightening bugs fill their ponytails miniature spiders lodge in their hems inchworms coax shivers down their shoulders the sun slings low as they set their chins on folded arms and sigh

Christine Hamm

Some of the names in this collection are recognisable. A number have featured in Sein und Werden at some point and others are unknown to me but these choice cuts of their work has titillated me into wanting to read more. Details of each poet can be found at the back of the book under the heading - notes on extra-delectable content providers - and the theme continues with Juliet's descriptions of each writer as the juicily oozing…, the feminist horror cupcake…, the steamier than fresh-baked multi-tiered cake… etc

This is a cleverly put-together gem, something that poets and non-poets alike will get pleasure from, something to make book-lovers and philologists wet their underwear, something the perverted and decadent might spill their cum and cocktails over.

A novel girl given to grovelling when it suits her.
Ever in search of a logic to prove her.
A devil to do her. A leech to bleed her.
Believe her. A queer, unpleasant danger.

(She, Jill Alexander Essbaum)

About the editor -

This collection of poems is laid out in such a way that the title is at the top of the poem and the name at the end. This gives you the opportunity, should you wish, to read the poem before discovering who wrote it. When I came across the poem The Angel of Death, it took just the first line for me to guess it's author, Juliet. 'Some of us are intimately acquainted with matching knee socks'.

The mouth-watering Juliet Cook is the knee-sock-wearing poetess of a thousand cup cakes frosted in scarlet. Her poetry has appeared in a number of publications including Wicked Alice, Sein und Werden, WOMB, Kulture Vulture and Prick of the Spindle. She has been involved with Sein und Werden since its conception in 2004 and an interview with her can be found at

Growling Softly and other chapbooks can be purchased from and Growling Softly has a blog at