Monday, January 6, 2014

Best Wishes for Chiaroscuro Kisses

As Co-founder and in my temp. position as Schoolmistress (Co-operating Intern) with Headmistress Press between January 2013 and September 2013, I had the privilege of being in on the process of reviewing and selecting a poetry manuscript for publication. That was the second time *ever* that I served on an editorial team; the first instance was a little different because I was working with the campus Women's Center on a creative writing journal.

Working with Headmistress co-owners Denenberg and Meriam was a treat and a great learning experience. I had a ball writing my flowery Facebook and website posts and I wish the press well in the future, now that I'm back to business with my academic pursuits (in grad school) and getting ready to wrap it all up with an epic thesis on Woolf.

The personified "Headmistress" was a mythical deity that I invented out of my loving imagination, and I know that from her throne in Lesbos, she'll always keep an eye on me, her imaginer, and send scholastic, lyric, and romantic love and knowledge my way, even though I've left the schoolnest and flown Her Sapphic coop. 

The mistressscript that we selected for publication is 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, Western Illinois University
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.”

1 comment:

Sue Lenaerts said...

Morrison's poetry is moving and oh-so-hot. She is a mistrtess of longing and loss. This reader can taste the desire and the grief.

The reviewer captured her soul, pulling out all the pulsating parts of the poet, leaving me wish that I was a poet too.