Thirteen Designer Vaginas, Juliet Cook
Hyacinth Girl Press, 2011Reviewed by Janelle Elyse Kihlstrom
Juliet Cook's provocative new chapbook, Thirteen Designer Vaginas, presents the author's 13 takes on, well, exactly what the title suggests. Each poem in the chapbook is entitled "Designer Vagina" and explores this unique material for inspiration from a slightly different angle.
Many of these poems explore body image issues, the Western worship of youth and airbrushed perfection and the objectification of the female anatomy. Others are labyrinthine body/self-reflections. As in all Cook's work, there is wonderfully dynamic wordplay, an undercurrent of horror and little tolerance for the candy-coated comforts of euphemism but instead a tendency to err on the side of candor. Visceral imagery is used to conjure mood, often a sense of suffocation or paralysis under the cosmetic surgeon's knife.
One poem sums up the aim of a combo "vaginal rejuvenation" (as the surgery is clinically termed)/lobotomy: "... It's all about pleasing/ pink squiggles and tiny flightless wings."
The previous one begins, "I should switch to a robot model. Snip, snip, pivot/ on oiled button mums. Siphon out sputum;/ enter hot datum. Flora approximated/ with keystrokes. In this cube, I am perfect;"
In these poems Cook's signature motif of the "doll injection mold" is applied to the one aspect of anatomy the cookiecutter-variety plastic girl's doll explicitly lacks but which, for the adult woman, has nevertheless failed to escape the influence of the "injection mold" philosophy of shame for any sort of deviance from an arbitrarily prescribed ideal.
This chapbook is the first title from Hyacinth Girl Press, which describes itself as a feminist micro press.