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.”