Thursday, September 15, 2011

Jade Sylvan's Year in Review

photo by caleb cole

I'm a year older. 

I feel generally better about getting older than I ever have before. I know everyone tells you that happens as you grow out of your fledgeling phase, but hearing it and experiencing it are two different things. Let's recap and try to make some sense of it all, shall we?

Jade Sylvan's Year in Review 
by Project

1. Music

I recorded and released a crapload of music this year. Last September I debuted Madame Psychosis, her first EP, and the Zombie Apocalypse! music video (with the help of LoWreck), which people seemed to like quite a bit. I got in a few publications and got some radio play. MME P performed at a bunch of venues around town, and generally had some fun.

All winter I worked on recording my first album of indie-punk-folk (it is so a genre) music with Lee Wizda producing and some amazing musicians and singers. This was a labor of love and obsession. I'd never had to organize so many people and keep the faith so long in the face of uncertainty. I think it paid off, though, and in the spring, Blood and Sand came out. It got some really good reviews, and opened a lot of doors as far as performance opportunities. It got me some press and radio play and all that neat stuff. Oh, and Caleb and I made a music video for this, too. Overall, I'm so happy with how the album came out. It was made with absolutely no money, just drive and love and passion.

Then in the late spring, I met Greg McKillop, an incredible songwriter and musician who wanted to play drums for me. We started touring around a bit and I couldn't be happier about it, and one of our first gigs was at Pete's Candy Store in NYC. We have the same aesthetic and musical philosophy, and working with him has been unbelievable inspirational. We recorded a fun four song EP together in my bedroom one day, and listening to it makes me so happy.

2. Poetry

I performed quite a bit of poetry this year. In addition to many local shows, I was honored to be asked to perform at the Massachusetts Poetry Festival in Salem. I also toured the East Coast (Savannah has a piece of my heart), and featured at the Berkeley Poetry Slam in California. I received a standing ovation at the Port Veritas Poetry Slam in Maine. It was my first one ever.

Caleb and I also put on Here and Now, a show about ephemera and a reaction against the hyper-documentation of modern society. It was super successful and a truly special night. We're working on plans to do it again this year, and even better.

I really feel like I've come to a new level as far as my performance goes. Partially inspired by Marina Abromovic, and partially by my yoga practice, I approach performing and my responsibilities as a performer in a very different way that's both more and less serious. It's not about ME the ego. It's about the moment, being present, and creating a ritual. The art happens in between the performer and the audience. I could go on about this forever, but this is a long enough post as it is.

Caleb and I made this video.

I also got a gig writing regular articles about poetry at Radius Lit Mag. It's a really smart, interesting publication run by my friend Victor Infante. It's a playground for my brain.

3. Teaching Poetry and Mass LEAP

I really grew as a teaching artist this year. I taught a three part workshop on Spoken Word Poetry at 826 Boston, and one-day workshops at the Mass Poetry Festival and the Andover Bread Loaf Writer's Conference.

In the winter, I met Anna West, who founded Louder Than A Bomb and Young Chicago Authors. She was in Boston for the year and was interested in starting a similar program here. She helped me, along with our cofounders, Alex Charalambides, Amanda Torres, Regie Gibson, and Ayano Strickland, start Mass LEAP, which just finished our first successful Kickstarter campaign and found a fiscal sponsor in Mass Poetry. I feel so honored to be a part of starting this organization, and I'm really psyched to see how it continues to grow and take shape over the years.

4. More Popular Than Jesus

The non-fiction book project I've been working on for the past two years with Steve Wagner really made strides this year. We've finished our book proposal and have the entire outline nailed down, as well as solid drafts of about 40% of the text.  

More Popular Than Jesus is a book that lays out the mythological and archetypal resonances of the Classic Rock icons of the 1960s (The Beatles as the Savior, Dylan as the Prophet, Jimi Hendrix as the Shaman, etc.) Initial response from agents and publishing contacts has been incredibly positive. We're really excited to wade this out into the world and see where it's going to take us.

In July, Steve and I performed the maiden run of a multimedia presentation about The Beatles as the Savior archetype to a packed house at the Brava Theatre in San Francisco. The audience responded incredibly well, and the night was filmed for a forthcoming DVD. I loved this performance and I'm looking forward to doing it again and again.

5. Yoga

I got really weird this year. I quit my job and went on foodstamps for three months and work-studied at Samara Yoga Studio. I started practicing 5+ times a week and took it very seriously.

The incredible teachers at Samara helped me improve at a lightening pace. I grew so much, and yoga helped me with so many of my lifelong issues, mental, emotional, and physical (depression, OCD, Tourette's Syndrome, allergies, bad knee/hip, chronic pain, drinking too much, insomnia, falling in love with the wrong people, anxiety, and headaches, just to name a few), that I knew I wanted to make it a big part of my life.

I met Jesse Winder and Doina Contescu, the owners of Karma Yoga Studio. We connected so strongly on our ideals and visions that it became instantly clear that we should work together. 

And a few days ago (technically after my birthday, but let's not split hairs) I taught my very first yoga class. :)


I honestly feel so blessed and grateful that I'm able to do so many things I love with so many people I love on a daily basis. Yes, there are hard times and dark times, and I don't make much money, and I work 80 hours a week, but look at all the stuff I get to experience, and all of the people I get to experience it with.

Thank you, Universe. That is all. 

Sunday, September 4, 2011

reset-switches and eye-twitches

I feel like I just stepped out of a timewarp. This entire past year has been un-effing-believable. One of those that seemed to rush past highway-fast, but then you look back and it feels like you've lived seven lifetimes.

My birthday is in five days. I'm going to be old. Like, getting-so-close-to-30-I-can-tell-that-it-doesn't-wear-deodorant old. Oddly, I feel better about this birthday than I have about any birthday before. It feels like what I'm doing finally makes sense. Like my life is kind of looking how I want it to look. Like the story is turning out.

My Revolution Resolution is to blog more, Facebook less. I bet I had really cool things to say about all the stuff that happened last year, but it's now lost in the seaward-rushing river of the ceaselessly chattering social media.

I'm slowing down for a while. I need to write more. Reflect more. Get back into the space where I can be a lonely novelist lost in her head. I've been performing and schmoozing and Being Cool for a year. Playing at being a rock star is all well and good inasmuch as it furthers The Art, but The Art is always and must always be the important thing. The drisdi and the germ of every action.

I'm still reconfiguring looking into this fall. There's a lot of work to do here in Boston. I've taken a job at Karma Yoga Studio handling special events and community outreach, which I'm actually really excited about. The nonprofit I cofounded this year, Mass LEAP just had its first successful fundraiser and found a fiscal sponsor, and I'm now on the board of Mass Poetry. I'll be helping to plan the Massachusetts Poetry Festival this year, and the first Louder Than a Bomb in Boston.

All this should give me some sort of stability and routine where I can carve out the space to create new work. It's hard to explain the love/hate relationship I have with loneliness. One of the things I love about performing and making music is the community and social aspects of it. When I started making music I was blown away by how much fun it is. It's inherently a social thing, which for a writer is a novel (npi) artistic experience.

But that means that you can't really write, or at least write much or deeply when you're in that performance mode. And if you try to schizophrenically shift back and forth, you'll drive yourself crazy. And of course, by "you" here, I mean me.

I visited my parents in Indiana at the end of last month for my first nonworking weekend in I can't even remember. We went to farmer's markets. Cooked meals. Took a day trip to Bloomington, where I went to college. We ate dinner at the Upland Brewery, which, if I've ever had A Place in my life, this was My Place. I saw my Spiritual Guru (long story, but he bought me my first Tarot cards eight years ago). We even watched TV (and I'm now obsessed with Battlestar Galactica). Then on my second day of relaxation, I developed an eye-twitch.

Thankfully, it only lasted a few days. But Jesus, it's amazing how much more aware of things our bodies are than our brains sometimes.

So I'm home now, and I keep reminding myself, Slow down. Focus. Find the solitary place in the woods or in your room where you can build worlds. Where you can see clearly enough to chisel the truth.

Also, because everyone loves pictures of food, here is the Best Homemade Pizza Ever, made by me and my mom and dad:

It tasted even better than it looks.