Sunday, August 9, 2015

The Last Blog Post: Mason is No Longer my Middle Name

While I am turning the page on this blog (cough cough), I am not destroying it: it exists for archival purposes.

I am no longer Jessica Mason McFadden.

Mason is now my LAST name.

Jessica Lowell Mason.

Me=(ow)t of here! :)

Monday, January 6, 2014

Headmistress Press -- and Best Wishes for Chiaroscuro Kisses

In January 2013, I was asked by Mary Meriam to start a press with her-- and to come up with the name. I co-founded and co-operated Headmistress Press in 2013, starting the press in January with Mary Meriam and then adding Risa Denenberg on board, per Mary's direction, shortly after I invented the name: Headmistress Press. I subsequently worked for the press, under the belief that I was a one of three owners and operators of the company. I also worked behind the scenes extensively, developing the concept behind 'Headmistress Press' and the 'Lavender Academy' as well as handled publicity between January 2013 and September 2013, when I was abruptly kicked out of the press I started. I learned through Risa that, unbeknownst to me, they had left me off of the business documents so that they could dispose of me after using me for months to get "their" press off the ground.

Prior to being kicked out of the press I invented and started, I had the privilege of reviewing and selecting a poetry manuscript for publication: G.L. Morrison's Chiaroscuro Kisses. It's a WONDERFUL book of poetry and I encourage all poetry lovers, even those who don't visit the Lavendar Altar daily, to check it out. Here is my humble review of this beautiful collection.

Chiaroscuro Kisses
Reviewer: Jessica Mason McFadden
Publisher: Headmistress Press
Pages: 40

G.I. Morrison’s poetic kiss opens in the somber style of chiaroscuro, where darkness is memory missing its remembrance and lightness is a “moon” of now, soon to be slivered by remembrance and forgetting. The style of her poems notes but never harnesses the stark, startling brightness of the light and disorienting depth of the dark abyss of an extracted poetic moment.

Morrison’s poems are happenings in the folds of life’s draperies; her poems of varying lengths come off and enter in as easily as compounded haikus, with the same matter-of-fact endurance and simplicity. Chiaroscuro Kisses, released in October 2013 by Headmistress Press, is a mature and crisp collection of poems that flicker, and sometimes burst, with prosaic clarity. In the folds of a lasting kiss is a balance between the tangible and the abstract. Morrison’s voice is sharp and her lyrical wisdom comes in snippets, snippets that are well-placed and wrapped— that come in sheaths but then pool in the comfort of poetic wholes.

In contrast with the short-lived confessional quality Morrison claims to crave, her wisdom is detached even at its most intimate. The impersonal detachment of the work establishes Morrison as a writer with a personality of note. She writes of love without drooling a drop of it; her poems lack excess in fluid and gore in order to push want, itself, to the forefront.

The entire collection is highly deliberate. Chiaroscuro Kisses is not about abandon but about the will of the mind to ensnare the moment of touch through an evenly paced, calm orchestration. There are contradictions in every kiss, and they are the subjects, ringing bell-like in harmony, of each poetic moment of existentialism.

Morrison’s poems exemplify what it means to remember through the body. She paints remembering as an act united with an awareness that transcends memory so that remembering becomes synonymous with the touching that happens now. The collection makes sense, without striving to make sense, of the bright beauty that arises amidst the pinched, pitch-black pain. She is able to turn phrases of opposites, putting them back-to-back, against one another, in order to propel the lyrical movement of the entire collection.

The poems challenge traditional concepts of memory, rendering memory a network of action wherein forgetting and remembering take place together with a unifying and formidably willful sense of collective agency.

Most of the poems in Chiaroscuro Kisses are markers of the memory: domestic spaces in which fixtures of the provincial and the mind meet. Morrison honors an egalitarian vision of art in which all entities are held equal and where there are no backdrops; all is surrounding and thoughts are fixtures in an expanse of light. The lightness of Morrison’s poetic stroke bears its own contrast to the substantiality of the philosophical leanings of the poems themselves, which adds greater depth and more folds to her curtain of kisses.

A stream of cherishing runs through the poems, showing up in different ways, in different lights, but in the same, constant voice. The cherishing stream bears the movement of loss, loss that rushes with cherishing— this distorts memory itself in the same way that water kissed by the light and darkness renders the two indiscernible.

Morrison is a writer who knows well the reciprocal and contrasting dilemma of action, the reaching of the kiss that borrows in order to remember and forget. Her tempered poems seek out, in the quiet, “what the deluge has to say.”

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Annual Thanksgiving Poems by D & E

Elan's 2013 Thanksgiving Poem

It's all about eatin' a toow-key,
we can play foh a wittle bit;
we can make toow-key out of papewr
-- moonies, movies about it.

They was eatin' toow-key
because they want turkeys
because they like turkeys.

Being thankful -- I don't know
what it means. I'm thanks-ful
for havin' a great home
for Thanksgiving. I'm thankful.

I want someone over; wah, wah,
uh, wah, oo, ahh, wuh, uh;
last Thanksgiving everybody comed.

Dar's 2013 Thanksgiving Poem

Turkey time, turkey time
is all about being thankful
for everything-- a time
when we get together
with our families and pray.

It's a peaceful time, a time
when we get together with others
who live far away, a time
when we join people together,
when we're nice to each other.

We should be thankful
for what we have to eat
because most people are poor;
we should feel bad for turkeys
because we actually kill
their bodies to make food.

I'm grateful for Isabelle,
my teacher, school, and the turkey
that gave its body. Turkeys die.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Tales from the (Pre)Script(ion): Sorority-Sister-Turned-Banana on the Loose(Leaf Tea)

So maybe I'll write a blog post and maybe I'll make it a short one (see: a long wind can learn...when it wants to!). Have I been avoiding this blog like the plague or am I just otherwise occupied? It doesn't really matter, but I'd like to reply to anyone's deep sea call, "Is anybody alive out there?"
Yes, indeed, someone is alive, and she's drinking a delicious pumpkin spice chai latte from the local coffee house (we have one, and on occasion two, in this town), Sullivan Taylor Coffee Housey. I'm almost positive the Housey has a mousey.

I'm a little mousey who has been dumped and rejected in the past couple of weeks, and it's not feeling all that bad. Strangely enough, I feel eerily and ethereally good about this. Ah, but details. Those:

For one, I presented a paper entitled "The Househeld Mind of Virginia Woolf" at our department's graduate conference this week, and, for a second year in a row, did not "place" and receive an award, despite my efforts to not-surpass the length requirements (in other words, I tried to play by the rules).

I will admit: sure, I'm entitled. I'm entitled (read: tricked?) into thinking that some of my work is award-worthy because I think my work is unique, creative, and provocative. On the whole in this department (and it's not a negative), adherence to tradition and "rules" is valued over creativity (in my estimation), and I haven't yet figured out how to get the two in balance when it comes to the work I produce-- I always allow creative freedom to trump academic tradition. In other words, my margins are full and my borders are running off. (Also: I cannot help but try to have fun at all is fun!) I am, first and foremost, an artist. When I think and write critically, I do so as an artist and not simply as an academic. I am a performer, a minstrel, a buffoon, and I love what I do. I don't privilege the academic identity over the artistic one, and that can be a problem when those who are academics first or academics-and-not-artists are judging the work. Plus, Peeps be so serious in these parts!

Besides the entitled ego (pun intended, English Graduate Organization!) within me that tries to rationalize why it is that I cannot win an award within the department and why it is that I am not one of the recognized "stars" of the department, I do think that there are random factors that have little to do with anything I've done or not done that come into play. It's like a very, very small lottery. Or maybe like Oz. Either way, whatever. I am really proud of my academic mind (and the work it produces), regardless of being a loser,  so it's really...OKAY.

It's also okay-dokay that I was contacted by an egg donor registry about being a long-distance donor for the second time, last week, and that it's likely, now that I've followed up with honesty about my schedule, that it will fall through and I won't be contacted again (last time, the couple decided to go with a donor closer to their location...and I can't argue: Macomb IS a travel frightmare). I would make a great donor, though, and I would do it for free (aside from travel and medical expense coverage). But, tick-tock, I'm almost thirty, and you probably know what happens to egg donors when they turn thirty! S/poof! Oh well, I have produced two beautiful daughters; my eggs have had their days! (But don't bring me into the OB ward if you don't want to taste my thirty tears.)

The other weird rejection is actually somewhat hilarious. Somewhat.

I was contacted by, pa dum bum, a sorority.

Alpha Sigma Alpha,...because they were "looking" for graduate members. Alright, alright, get the giggles out of you right now. I know: it is funny.

Me? A sorority girl? That has EXTREME PARODY written all over it. Yes it does. Alas, Moon help me, I like parody too much and I tend to use myself as the real live experiment in my parody(sexual) lifestyle/narrative. They said that I was recommended to them, but, little to my naive knowledge, that was a clever way of saying my name was on some random list. I didn't just delete the email, as was my impulse, because I am trying to actively STOP putting myself in the "I'm Weird and an Outcast" box; instead, yes: slap my wristy, Sisty, I responded. I looked at the website, which promotes sisterhood (totally my bag, Baby!) and thought, "I should not dismiss this, maybe I can revamp my image and be accepted and part of something surprising...yessss, purrfect, a Sisterhood!"

After I responded, asking if I received the message in error, a very friendly chapette assured me that it was no mistake and that she would love to meet with me. Am I nuts or what? I said yes!

I met my new-and-gone friend, Suzanne, in a lounge in the Student Union for over an hour, discussing the sorority. I had tons of questions, raised a lot of issues, offered innovative ideas, took ample notes, and came to the conclusion (I don't know what planet I occupy, but I thought it was mutual) that I had a lot of attributes that would benefit the organization. We talked about stereotypes, image, and homogeneity. She admitted that they did not have very many African American students. We did talk of lesbians, mothers, and aging folks, too. I thought (and said in so many words) that my being part of such an organization could potentially be beneficial and trans-formative of it. If I were recruiting, for instance, we'd be seeing a population worlds apart in terms of diversity. Surely, a positive. And dear Suzanne, she agreed and was a delightful conversation partner. I have no doubt that she learned quite a bit from our encounter.

Contrary to what you might be thinking, I did not scare the poor sister. She seemed (I stress "seemed") excited and told me that she would be emailing later that night with more information about eligibility. Later that night: no email. The next day: no email. Ever after: nada on the emaila. Which is fine. As we all know, I am a one-woman sisterhood -- a sisterhood wrapped in one body, so I'll get by with or without the organization and my stripes.

I do, though, have to wonder about myself. I'm an (h)aging (s)hipster. I feel like I'm five years old, but I'm almost thirty. Huh-ney, you got me. I have the soul of an 18th century spinster, the free spirit of a tyke, the body of a silly putty fairy, and the hormones of a seventeen year old boy. Help me, Lawwwwd. Or Lord. Because lately I need the Lawd and the Lord. Yuh-s, I'm praying lately. And that's for real. Mostly in the cool, cool, cool of the evening, but today I was on my knees in the afternoon. No joke. Surreal Life has begun. Yes, I pray. I try. Worship suits me, I've decided. After all, I used to be an in/firm believer. Who knows where this kneeling business will lead, but back to the five-year-olds:

I've been spending some time with them, in Dar's classroom, where I volunteer a couple times a week. My little peers (am I their peer mentor?) get a kick out of my perfume (Arabian Oud, to you, I pledge shhhh-eternal allegiance!) and my outfits (Bloomers, to you, I pledge my shhhh-eternal love!). Today, I wore a little ensemble that featured a yellow sweater I have had since high school. When I walked into Linked In, I mean: Lincoln, a kid stopped me in the hall and said, with attitude, "What are YOU?" What am I? I thought I was human, but now I don't have to be held down by that. I can, apparently, be anything. I told him, "I don't know," but I should have said, "Angela Lansbury's purse, what are you?" When I arrived at the Bear Den (Dar's classroom), as soon as I walked in, the purses, I mean humans, began discussing my appearance. It was entertaining conversation, and I recommend that people start dressing with more flare if they don't have anything to talk about! Forget coffee table books and magazines; hire me to be your coffee table!

One kid said, "That's a banana!" That. Ah. Moi. Others voiced their agreement. And so, there it is: today, I was "that banana" (still am, until I become a purse again in the night-shower!). Wonder what I'll be tomorrow. If I may be so bold as to wish on this, I wish to be a chalice.

Elan has news for us, too.  She shared with us, standing on the couch after school, that she told Maxim he is her boyfriend. To be precise, she said, "I just telled him today. I telled him he's my boyfriend." She seemed quite pleased, and I suppose I approve of her choice. If she has to have one of those (briefcases, right?), he seems suitable.

Well, This Banana said she'd keep this short. Plus, she has to play a cocaine addict in a scene for "Acting for the Camera" (i.e., Meisner for film) class tomorrow and teach two classes of her own.

So, adieu, Pretty You.

Monday, August 5, 2013

My Five Year Old Daughter, the Bed-Banging Anarchist Rock Star, Thor!

Dar, pretending to be a performer named Thor (who, notably and disturbingly, puked after every show, saying, "I'm gonna puke, I'm gonna puke" and "I'm goin' to sleep. Nap time for me. Definitely!" and then woke up to another performance, announcing to herself cheerily, "This is the big audition today!"), screamed this song (that she made up) extraordinarily loudly on the bed for a good twenty minutes this afternoon. I could not stop laughing, for at least the first four bodacious rounds.

The improvised lines that really stand out to me, one of Thor's mothers: the one about going around naked and the call to "just hit our heads." If this tune predicts anything about the teenage years, it sounds like we'll have our hands full...of heroically wild empowerment. I will, however, invest in helmets, first thing in the morning! Don't think I didn't expect the gods to give me a taste of my own youthful elixir; I've been told by a wise-ass/embler of truth that I "would be more than a handful for a parent" and I know handfuls always come back to haunt with handfuls. Luckily, the best parenting trick I have up my wisely wild sleeve is my sense of humor, appreciation, understanding, and power of persuasion. Communication is the answer to all questions, especially ones that don't have answers. Something tells me that Dar soon will give my persuasive power a run for its money. I should note, too, that she had been listening to Fiona Apple's new album yesterday. Under the influence, aren't we all...

I'm the Boss of Myself
by Dar Thor

"Don't lay on the bed?"
HEY, who made you the boss?
I'm the boss of myself. I go around naked.
Come on let's go free.
"Don't?" Who said you're the boss,
I'm the boss of myself. I'm gonna do it my way.
Now, everybody, let's go crazy.
Hey, who made you the boss? I'm the boss of myself.
Now let's go free, I'm gonna do it my way.
My brain is the boss of me. I don't have to listen to anybody
because I am the boss of myself.
They say don't do this, don't do that,
I say who made you the boss me --
I'm the boss of myself, you can't boss me around.
I can do whatever I want to do.
Jump on the bed, do everything I want.
They say don't do this, don't do that;
I say, I'm the boss of myself,
 I can do whatever I want, come on let's have a party.
Come on let's just hit our heads.
Who made you the boss, I'm the boss of me.
I'll jump, and jump, and roll all day.
And then get some candy at Walgreens all by myself.
I don't have to sleep, I say no way.
Whoooo's the boss of me? ME! I'm the boss of myself,
you can't boss me around,
I'm the boss of myself, let's jump around.
They say don't do that, I say, who made you the boss;
I'm the boss of me, let's be free. I'm the boss of myself,
you knowwww that, now let's go free.
Rock and roll everything, I'm the boss of myself.
I say no way, I'm the boss of myself,
now let's go free and play.
You can't tell me to do that, I'm gonna go free.
No one can control me,
I'll kick em around if they try cause I am the boss of me.
I'm the boss of myself, I'm the boss of me.
Now let's go free and play,
come and play, come on
let's go free-ee and play.
Free to jump around and free to do anyanyanything.
Come on, come on, who made you the boss of me?
I'm the boss of myself, now let's go free and play.
Everything is free today. I'm gonna go my way.
I'm the boss of myself, so let's go away.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Get Your Poet On!

I'd like to start a line of perfumes inspired by and named after dead poets. Possible company names (no, not Dead Poet Scentciety or Poet-No-Mort): Poet Aroma, Verse Verdant, or Poessence, perhaps. For travel-size versions, Poet Balm (Frost will be a best-seller every December!). But think of it - what poet would you want (to try) on your skin? How would you WANT or imagine Teasdale to smell (on you)? The poems are the inspiration for the Scent of the Poet. And the motto: "The scent that'll make you wish you were dead!" 100% All-Supernatural Ingredients GUARANTEED! And no discontinuations EVER. You won't want to leave the house without (getting) Your Poet on! Who wouldn't want to give her sweetheart a little Millay on Valentine's Day? Who wouldn't want to douse herself in Dickinson?

If you had this idea before me: NO YOU DIDN'T. I have only one person to thank (or blame) for this and it is Nana (and Nana's Basement Perfumehouse of Avon). Do not let this cat out of the hag. I need to call Oprah first to schedule personal interviews with the dead poets I am representing. Oprah can try out all the poets first because she O-wns the Poet Perfume Network - the dead poets in perfume bottles all want to have tea with Oprah THE MOMENT they come (back) to life. All Rights Reserved for this Aromatic Rumi. You know you wanna put that favorite poet on your favorite someone. You know you wanna Sleep with Shelley.