An interview with Juliet Cook continued
You ask why art should be easy to swallow. Do you mean from the point of view of the reader/audience or of the poet/artist? Is there, ultimately, a difference?
I was speaking from my own point of view as the poet. I've no compelling desire to force feed my poetry to people if it doesn't suit their tastes. I'm not going to cater it to anyone's tastes but my own.
I do find it discouraging that what I think of as the mainstream audience tends to be drawn to escapist entertainment versus provocative art. I find it disturbing and depressing that people would rather escape than be challenged--whether they're escaping into the latest blockbuster movie or popping the newest pharmaceutical. I am certainly in no position to judge individual persons choices; but generally speaking, I sense a distressing trend towards numbness and distraction, as if people don't even want to confront their own troubling thoughts and feelings, let alone the perspectives of others.
I do not have an audience in mind as I am crafting my poetry. I strive to create art pieces that will satisfy my own sensibilities. I think that the more committed I remain to my own vision, the more authentic my poetry will be-and the more authentic it is, the more likely it might resonate for others.
I know what my poetry means to me. Content-wise, style-wise, and tone-wise, I make precise choices with certain poetic goals in mind. Yet I don't expect my poetry to mean the same to everyone who reads it. Once I have satisfied my own standards for a particular piece, I am not going to try to exert control over how a reader chooses to interpret it. So many subjective nuances play into individual interpretation that I don't even like to mar the experience of a reader's individual interpretation by explaining my poems.
I can explain them if asked, though. I know very well what they mean. I can elaborate and extrapolate at length upon just about every word and every underlying connotation. But that kind of familiarity shouldn't be surprising, considering I wrote them. I've always felt a bit befuddled by those poets who act as if the content of their poetry is mysterious even to them. I mean, didn't they craft that content? Didn't they orchestrate those words? Or did they just pluck them out of the sky?
My poetry is not plucked. It's dredged forth-it's trawled up-and it starts out raw. My rough drafts are usually dreadful-and I have to revise & revise & revise, in a process that feels rather like a cross between piecing together a peculiar puzzle and psychoanalysis.
I don't have much patience for poets who hardly revise. Like if I'm at an Open Mic and I see a poet scratching her/his poem out on a sheet of notebook paper mere minutes before she/he presents it aloud, I might feel like hammering that person in the head with a meat tenderizing mallet. I don't want to hear anybody's off the cuff rough drafts. And I don't assume that anyone would want to hear mine. I don't even assume that people will desire my completed pieces.
I don't know what people want to hear/read-- and I don't really care. I'm not a person-shaped marketplace churning out cleverly plotted little products to meet some demand. I'm a woman expressing myself through poetry. If those expressions connect with certain individuals, that is delightful. But I'm not going to purposely apply a marketable slant to my personal expression. That would defeat one of the main reasons that poetry is so important to me.
It is a creation--not a product.
Your poetry broaches some very female-centric concerns and although you don't cater for a particular audience, I think a lot of women will associate with you on that level. Do you think poetry is, or ought to be, gendered? Do you consider yourself a women's/female poet, or simply a poet? Or perhaps something less specific, like writer or artist?
In a broader sense, I consider myself to be a creative writer. More specifically, I am a poet. I can write creatively in other modes aside from poetry; but my writerly strengths don't reside in the realms of exposition/journalism or fiction. I feel pretty firmly entrenched in the land of poetry.
I cultivate a blog at www.xanga.com/candydishdoom, for my own creative reasons-and for those who might desire a peek behind the scenes/a glimpse into my peculiar inner machinations. I think that the blogosphere is a very interesting manifestation of contemporary communication and documentation.
I also enjoy collage art and occasional painting. But I tend to view those forums more as creative outlets; whereas, I tend to view my poems as crafted entities/art pieces.
My poetry does deal with some concerns or themes that seem rather pussy-centric-and I do tend to imagine my poetic content as having more resonance/relevance for other women-but I cannot predict with certainty whom my poetry will/will not resonate for. Some men have enjoyed my poetry or found it to be strangely sexy; some women have found it to be too self-centered, distasteful, or anti-feminist.
My poetry has even been described as rancid.
I don't think that writers are obligated to write about the experiences of their own gender or even from the perspective of their own gender, especially considering that gender constructions and their implications are becoming more shifty/twisty/circuitous and in question these days. But even though gender is a construct, much social conditioning accompanies each of the two commonly accepted genders-and I think that it is difficult to escape being imprinted by such conditioning.
The fact that I have a female perspective and have undergone female experiences in my lifetime has influenced the way that I interpret reality-and my particular variety of reality perception imbues my creative work, in a subjective and maybe even somewhat subliminal way. But I do not have a poetic agenda that involves the purposeful creation of 'women's poetry'. I am just writing MY poetry.
I am not interested in poetry that seems like it is purporting to speak for all women. Such generalized presumption strikes me as quite ridiculous. I most certainly do not think that my poetry speaks for all women. My poetry cannot speak for anyone but me. I like to think that it might resonate for certain others who appreciate my alien witch sensibilities. I like the phrase 'alien witchery'. Perhaps I ought to concoct a poetic treatise based upon the premise that I write poetry for alien witches.
Lastly, I'd like to ask you about your influences, if you have any. Have there been any poets, authors, musicians etc… who you feel have motivated you, driven you, or who made you want to start writing in the first place? What about contemporary poets, are there any you would recommend to readers of Sein und Werden? Lastly, is there any one person (historical, fictional, dead or alive) you would most like to meet?
I'm not big on idolatry, especially not of celebrities-but I am well-read and I do have favorite poets. Most of my favorite writers are contemporary; those who are writing right now. I can appreciate modern poetry; but I am more interested in the present rather than the past or the future.
For that reason, I can't recall having fantasized about meeting a historical figure. Certainly, there are some living writers/artists who I would not mind meeting for a cup of coffee or cocktail or cupcake. Tess Gallagher, Nicole Cooley, or Lynn Crosbie to name a few. Those women are amongst my favorite poets. I also like Marie Howe, Brenda Shaughnessy, Lucia Perillo, CD Wright, Lucie Brock-Broido and Evelyn Lau.
Several poets that I like who are dead, but shouldn't be-Raymond Carver, Frank Stanford, and Tory Dent. Carver is quite popular, as his work tends to be rather plainspoken and accessible; but the other two are deserving of far more appreciation. All three of Tory Dent's poetry collections are phenomenal and searing and very important -'What Silence Equals', 'HIV Mon Amour', and the recently released, 'Black Milk'. Much of Stanford's work is unfortunately out of print, but if you can find 'The Light the Dead See' or 'The Battlefield Where the Moon Says I Love You', then you ought to snatch those documents up.
Speaking of suicidal poets, when I was younger, Anne Sexton was my favorite poet-and I still appreciate and enjoy her work. And I am currently revisiting Sylvia Plath; delving into her collected poems. She strikes me as much more than a confessional poet. The combination of precision and evocativeness conjured by her Ariel-era material is stunning.
No one poet compelled me to start writing in the first place and no one poet has hugely influenced my own writing style; but I am most certainly not one of those writers who writes poetry but doesn't read it. I love to read poetry. Poetry collections, poetry anthologies, poetry within literary magazines, poetry online. Not all of it, of course. Much of it is just awful. But some of it is stellar and provocative and painful and arousing and moving and succulent and hugely significant. I wish that more people appreciated and enjoyed poetry.
I am very interested in poets/writers who are working within the small press community today-and I find it rewarding and fun to foster acquaintanceships and/or dialogues with some such writers whose work I admire or whose projects particularly interest me. I like to compliment them, support them, and exchange work with them.
I am pretty much always in the mood to exchange artwork and discuss poetry-and interested parties may feel free to contact me via www.xanga.com/candydishdoom.
Then again, you never know how I might respond. I can be pretty moody.