Friday, December 4, 2015

A Non-Review of Stella Padnos Shea's Forthcoming Poetry Collection Entitled “In My Absence”

A Non-Review of Stella Padnos Shea's Forthcoming Poetry Collection Entitled “In My Absence”

This is not a review of “In My Absence,” which is due out early in 2016 by Winter Goose Publishing. Since I haven't read the book, this, by definition, cannot be a book review. Even though I'm a close friend, my eyes have never once grazed the manuscript, nor have I begged her to let me do so. I have simply not wanted to spoil my appetite. Some things, in my opinion, are just worth waiting for.

So since I haven't read the book, I'll review the three words of the title:

“In” is a helplessly intimate word.

“My” is obviously how to express possession of something. Whether we want to possess that something or not.

“Absence” in general is an interesting concept––something that should be there that is not there. It's the driving force for most human behaviors, and often it seems like life is a box that keeps growing emptier no matter how hard we try to fill it.

My favorite poem of hers is called “Goodnight Stars.” I have no idea if this is in the book or not. But this poem makes me never want to go to sleep, or say goodnight to anyone or anything ever again. And last night and tonight and right now and tomorrow and next year I read it, and I cried/I cry/I will keep crying about what she says, because it will never stop being beautiful and true and infinitely hurtful.

Earlier this year I met her outside of the Brooklyn Museum, late one evening. We had made plans to go look at art. Brooklyn art. Before we went inside though, she darted past a hot dog vendor and into the street, where she scooped up a child's disposable, paper, gold crown that had been discarded. She placed it, proudly, atop her head, and genuinely couldn't believe how someone could have thrown it away. To her, it was a treasure. And this, this is what makes her poetry so beautiful.

When we were inside the museum that night we did not look at much art. I'm usually pretty lazy when it comes to museums. But we did find two paintings side by side, and sat down on the floor in front of them to scribble poems. Strangers stepped past us, but the paintings did not move and we did not move, only a tiny bit of lint tried to climb up off the floors into our pockets after a while, so that it could go home with us. Sadly (for the lint) I never wear anything that has pockets. The concept of pockets seems cruel, to hide things so others can't see or have them. I especially wouldn't want to wear any pocketed garment when I'm around someone like Stella, because Stella is someone who makes you want to empty out your pockets.

As I said earlier, her book is forthcoming in just a few months. I don't know exactly when, but most likely it will be when the snowflakes turn to sludge, as in right before spring hits. You should probably start getting excited about this now though, and then pace it out. Like have a little celebration in anticipation every other week, because it can't be too healthy to drink that amount of champagne on one single book launch evening.

If for some reason you are not able to get a copy of her extraordinary book when it comes out––perhaps you're broke, crippled, what have you––no worries! I will break into each and every one of your homes late at night and read the poems to you, bedside, by starlight. Because you all deserve to hear what she has to say.


Monday, November 16, 2015

The Poetry Brothel

Last halloween I attended the Poetry Brothel's masquerade ball in the lower east side of Manhattan, and wore a glittery carnival mask that I'd procured on an adventure in Venice many years ago. I was so enamored with the scene: everything was candlelit, the poets were beautifully costumed and otherworldly, and everyone held little teacups full of absinthe in their hands. If you chose to have a private reading, you were led by a well-perfumed poetry whore, and past a secret bookcase door, into the magical poetry enclave. The scene was reminiscent of Kubrick's "Eyes Wide Shut."

The next morning, I declared that I would become a poetry whore. The idea of exchanging poetry for money (as opposed to sex for money) seemed utterly and idealistically romantic. Plus the debaucherous undertones of being a part of a "brothel" made it that much more alluring to me. So I sent my sample poems, biography and photographs to the brothel. When they agreed to give me an audition the next month I was thrilled.

As I walked over to the audition last winter I was extremely nervous. I carried a shopping bag filled with the most elaborate items in my wardrobe––feathered eyelash extensions, cheap corsets, and backseamed stockings––along with copies of both of my books and printed copies of my recent poems. A few blocks before I reached the location of the audition I saw graffiti on the side of a building and stopped in my tracks. It read: "One day your life will flash before your eyes. Make sure it's worth watching." That's all I needed to get the confidence to ring the doorbell and walk into that audition.

The madame was a beautiful woman with dramatically long red hair, and a voice that was both sinful and girly. She had more confidence than the entire female population of a NYC borough combined, and sat in silence as I performed my poems. Beside her was a man who looked strangely similar to a pirate, with intense eyes and a wild energy that he barely contained. At the end they agreed to let me do a practice show and test me out. After that I performed in a few more brothels, and I can't explain how wonderful this world is. The poets I perform with are incredibly talented, beautiful, and charming. The quality of their literature would be more than enough to draw a crowd, but so many glittering extras are added in to enhance the experience. I am now nearly a year into performing with them, I perform as Genevieve Des Etoiles, which in English translates to: Jennifer from the stars. Here's my official bio:

Genevieve is a courtesan from 19th century France. At the prime of her life she met the man of her dreams - a handsome young woodworker with eyes as blue as the ocean at night. He crafted her beautiful boxes made of Malaysian Mahogany in which she stowed her most precious perfumes and love potions. The two planned to buy a boat and sail across the world, never letting their feet touch the horrible, cruel earth again. 
One fateful night however, during a thunderstorm she returned home to find one of her patrons angrily pacing the cobblestone walk that led to her front door. He could not stand that she had fallen in love with another man, and vowed - to her and to god and to the stars that she descended from - that she would never love again, if she would not love him. He placed a curse on her. She was murdered that night - drowned by him in her own bathtub that had been filled with saltwater and a single one of his tears. 
On the hundred-year anniversary of her death, Thomas Edison invented a ghost machine that brought her back to life. Now she roams the streets of New York, looking for her long-lost love, hoping he has been reincarnated too. Wherever she goes she is accompanied by her immortal pet goldfish that she rescued from a carnival, and neither of them can last for longer than 24 hours without being near a river or ocean or some body of water. She eats only caviar, drinks only champagne, and is legally blind if she is in a room that is not lit by chandeliers. 
Be warned: do not stare into her eyes for more than a few seconds at a time. It will be tempting because when you look into them you will see heaven in her earth-brown colored pupils, but if you make this grave mistake and fall into her gaze's trance the rest of your days will be doomed with the curse of the missing lover as well.

We've recently moved into the hidden lounge beneath the old Woolworth building--one of the first skyscrapers ever built in America. The history and opulence of this setting creates an atmosphere that fits perfectly with the Poetry Brothel.

Here is a random snapshot in the dirty alleyway that led to the luxurious brothel:

You can see the official photographs and bios of me and the other poetry whores here.

I'm sad I wasted so many years being shy and afraid. I wish I could go back to little 8-year-old Jenny and tell her: do whatever makes your heart race, be bold, understand how beautiful you are, and don't be ashamed to share that beauty. Understand, too, how incredible your love is, and don't keep that locked up from others. Take risks and leap off cliffs. Remember that nothing can kill the things that really matter within you. Make your life memorable. Leave a glittering tombstone, and give the biographers something juicy to write about. 


Tuesday, February 10, 2015

On Finishing My Novel & Blurb Writing

I finished the first draft of my novel, and it kind of broke my heart a little to write those last few words. My hands froze over the keyboard, as if each final keystroke were a bullet hole through my loved one––because ultimately that final punctuation mark was the end of something very beautiful to me. The relationship between a writer and their work is more intimate than I realized before finishing this book––I almost wanted to keep on writing it for the rest of my life, I did not want to let go. This made me think of the quote by Truman Capote: "Finishing a book is just like you took a child out in the back yard and shot it." But there it was, that the desire to share this story with the world eventually overrode my desire to live all by myself in that world forever. So I sealed the fate of all my characters, and sang them through their plot lines with some sweet words. And since they were all born solely from my own mind's creation, and existed only in those pages, my completion of the first draft was in fact the death of them all.

When I was a little girl I used to sneak off into the forest to work on novels, but since my adolescence I have not really attempted any full-length work of fiction, so it is nice to be returning to it after all of these years. Now I must move on to the process of subsequent drafts––an arduous and overwhelming but completely necessary phase. Revision of course means to "see again", and I need just a little time to let go of my previous "visions" of what it should be, so that I can be free to see what it can be.

In other exciting news, my friend Eric has asked me to write a blurb for his forthcoming book of poetry. I've been waiting, hmm, around a DECADE for this book, and I'm overwhelmed that I get the honor of writing a blurb for the back cover. It is certain to be a book that will go down in history, and I am filled with a lot of pleasure that I get to be a part of that history. I'm sorry, but I seriously cannot believe I get that honor. I've really done some things right in life, that's all I'll say.

Well, in fact it is not really *me* that will be writing the blurb for his book, but rather one of the characters from my novel will be writing it, from within the coma world. But anyway, I can't wait for the world to read his book. When I finished reading it I felt unbearably anxious that I would not be able to do it justice. I've since finished the first draft of the blurb, but I only have a couple more days to get this done. Fingers crossed....