Thursday, June 19, 2008

Aleda Shirley has passed away.

Aleda Shirley, a resident of Jackson and award-winning poet, recently passed away after a long bout with cancer. Regular readers will remember her as a blogger on Jackson Jambalaya last fall. I was always impressed by her razor-sharp wit, keen eye, and a love of life, as well as compassion for others. Her obituary in The Clarion-Ledger describes her much better than anything I can write:

"Aleda Shirley died Monday, June 16, 2008, after a long battle with cancer. She was the author of three collections of poetry, Dark Familiar (Sarabande Books, 2006), Long Distance (Miami University Press, 1996), and Chinese Architecture (University of Georgia Press, 1986), which won the Poetry Society of America's Norma Farber First Book Prize. She published poems in many magazines, including Poetry and American Poetry Review, and received, among many other awards, fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Kentucky Arts Council and the Mississippi Arts Council.
The publication of Dark Familiar was met with enthusiastic reviews, with Publisher's Weekly declaring that Shirley had "crafted a powerful return to poetry." Her work was deeply admired by readers and fellow poets, including Lucie Brock-Broido, who wrote of the poems in Dark Familiar, "These narratives are harrowing, and hallowed, striking, dark, familiar, strange, and beautiful, and wise."
Shirley was an extraordinary teacher who inspired students at the University of Mississippi and Millsaps College with her wicked sense of humor, her sharp perception about their intents, and her thorough knowledge of the popular worlds in which they traveled. She was the first Poet in the Schools in a Kentucky program that served as a national model through the National Endowment for the Arts. She helped establish and direct All Write!, a Mississippi Arts Commission program that places writers in community literacy programs and correctional facilities to teach creative writing to students working toward their GED.
She was an omnivorous reader who might in a single day turn from Proust to People magazine, Shakespeare to true crime, Joan Didion to James Ellroy. A brilliant conversationalist, she could discuss with passion, wit, and steely conviction the paintings of Mark Rothko, Manolo Blahnik shoes, the Kennedy family, late-night talk radio, the music of Joni Mitchell, the O.J. Simpson trial, the presidential campaign, how to cook coq au vin, and most other topics. Though she was the most interesting guest at any party, she was happiest at home in Belhaven with her husband Mike and her beloved cats.
Aleda Shirley was born in Sumter, South Carolina, May 2, 1955, to Guy and Betty J. Shirley. Her father served in the air force, and she moved frequently as a child but considered her homes to be Kentucky, where her family has deep roots, and Mississippi, where she lived from 1990 until her death. She earned her B.A. from the University of Louisville in 1975 and remained a passionate Cardinal basketball fan the rest of her life.
She is survived by her father, Guy Shirley, and her husband, Michael McBride, of Jackson, as well as aunts, uncles, and cousins, and a large and devoted group of friends, readers, and students.A memorial service will be held Monday, June 23, 2008, at 4 p.m. at the Mississippi Museum of Art, 380 S. Lamar Street, Jackson..."

She was a wonderful lady. I enjoyed reading and re-reading her emails as they were so unpredictable, yet were a breath of fresh air. Some tidbits from some of our emails:

On false pride:
"When egos go wild. . . . Not a pretty sight."

Her love of Louisville basketball:
" For one thing I hate the University of Kentucky with every cell in my body. And I remember how much I hated Memphis State, back in the 80s when they were in the same conference with Louisville and had that felon coach Dana Kirk,and put death threats out on Denny Crum, and threw things at our players, including one of my favorites, Derek Smith. (He actually had to have stitches.)"

Her hatred of football:
"You seem to have forgotten that I hate all football. If pressed, I'd be for Auburn in loyalty to Mike, but if the whole sport--college and professional--stopped tomorrow I'd have a blow-out celebration party that would no doubt get me killed here in MS."

On Norman Mailer:
"I think his an uneven canon, but The Executioner's Song is really one of the best books written in the last fifty years."

Her favorite city:
"Oh, and I drink a sazerac the first thing when I go to NOLA.At the Old Napoleon House. Which is always an interesting thing to do since I know that Jim Garrison and his cronies went over there to watch the TV when they found out JFK had been assassinated. I love secret resonances like that. And New Orleans is by far my favorite city (although I haven't been back since Katrina). Mike and I were not only married there, but the date of our marriage was determined by when my favorite room at the Maison de Ville was available..."

Here are some earlier posts by Aleda:

Goodbye Aleda. You will be sorely missed. I know you fought long and hard, enjoying life to the fullest. You were a treasure in this world and will be fondly remembered by many.


Anonymous said...

Loss of a great creative spirit.

Kingfish said...

yup. She was very sick when she started posting here but being creative was in her blood and it literally took death to stop that part of her. A couple of times she emailed me, typing one handed, one arm all wrapped up. Was a very special lady.

Tom Head said...

This is very sad. She was a remarkable human being.

David said...

There is now a page devoted to her on Wikipedia if anyone feels like adding to it. I'm hoping someone does soon, or it may be removed.

Anonymous said...

I'm so sad to know another wonderful creative person is gone from this world.

Unknown said...

I know this is many years old, but I thought of Aleda today. She meant so much to me, her words, criticisms, and praise. I can still see her responding to something I had written in a class, tossing her hair back and forth, and telling me that my simple words were brilliant. As I said, she meant so much to me. She left a life long impression.

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Trollfest '09

Trollfest '07 was such a success that Jackson Jambalaya will once again host Trollfest '09. Catch this great event which will leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Othor Cain and his band, The Black Power Structure headline the night while Sonjay Poontang returns for an encore performance. Former Frank Melton bodyguard Marcus Wright makes his premier appearance at Trollfest singing "I'm a Sweet Transvestite" from "The Rocky Horror Picture Show." Kamikaze will sing his new hit, “How I sold out to da Man.” Robbie Bell again performs: “Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be Bells” and “Any friend of Ed Peters is a friend of mine”. After the show, Ms. Bell will autograph copies of her mug shot photos. In a salute to “Dancing with the Stars”, Ms. Bell and Hinds County District Attorney Robert Smith will dance the Wango Tango.

Wrestling returns, except this time it will be a Battle Royal with Othor Cain, Ben Allen, Kim Wade, Haley Fisackerly, Alan Lange, and “Big Cat” Donna Ladd all in the ring at the same time. The Battle Royal will be in a steel cage, no time limit, no referee, and the losers must leave town. Marshand Crisler will be the honorary referee (as it gives him a title without actually having to do anything).

Meet KIM Waaaaaade at the Entergy Tent. For five pesos, Kim will sell you a chance to win a deed to a crack house on Ridgeway Street stuffed in the Howard Industries pinata. Don't worry if the pinata is beaten to shreds, as Mr. Wade has Jose, Emmanuel, and Carlos, all illegal immigrants, available as replacements for the it. Upon leaving the Entergy tent, fig leaves will be available in case Entergy literally takes everything you have as part of its Trollfest ticket price adjustment charge.

Donna Ladd of The Jackson Free Press will give several classes on learning how to write. Smearing, writing without factchecking, and reporting only one side of a story will be covered. A donation to pay their taxes will be accepted and she will be signing copies of their former federal tax liens. Ms. Ladd will give a dramatic reading of her two award-winning essays (They received The Jackson Free Press "Best Of" awards.) "Why everything is always about me" and "Why I cover murders better than anyone else in Jackson".

In the spirit of helping those who are less fortunate, Trollfest '09 adopts a cause for which a portion of the proceeds and donations will be donated: Keeping Frank Melton in his home. The “Keep Frank Melton From Being Homeless” booth will sell chances for five dollars to pin the tail on the jackass. John Reeves has graciously volunteered to be the jackass for this honorable excursion into saving Frank's ass. What's an ass between two friends after all? If Mr. Reeves is unable to um, perform, Speaker Billy McCoy has also volunteered as when the word “jackass” was mentioned he immediately ran as fast as he could to sign up.

In order to help clean up the legal profession, Adam Kilgore of the Mississippi Bar will be giving away free, round-trip plane tickets to the North Pole where they keep their bar complaint forms (which are NOT available online). If you don't want to go to the North Pole, you can enjoy Brant Brantley's (of the Mississippi Commission on Judicial Performance) free guided tours of the quicksand field over by High Street where all complaints against judges disappear. If for some reason you are unable to control yourself, never fear; Judge Houston Patton will operate his jail where no lawyers are needed or allowed as you just sit there for minutes... hours.... months...years until he decides he is tired of you sitting in his jail. Do not think Judge Patton is a bad judge however as he plans to serve free Mad Dog 20/20 to all inmates.

Trollfest '09 is a pet-friendly event as well. Feel free to bring your dog with you and do not worry if your pet gets hungry, as employees of the Jackson Zoo will be on hand to provide some of their animals as food when it gets to be feeding time for your little loved one.

Relax at the Fox News Tent. Since there are only three blonde reporters in Jackson (being blonde is a requirement for working at Fox News), Megan and Kathryn from WAPT and Wendy from WLBT will be on loan to Fox. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both and a torn-up Obama yard sign will entitle you to free drinks served by Megan, Wendy, and Kathryn. Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required. Just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '09 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.

Note: Security provided by INS.

Trollfest '07

Jackson Jambalaya is the home of Trollfest '07. Catch this great event which promises to leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Sonjay Poontang and his band headline the night with a special steel cage, no time limit "loser must leave town" bout between Alan Lange and "Big Cat"Donna Ladd following afterwards. Kamikaze will perform his new song F*** Bush, he's still a _____. Did I mention there was no referee? Dr. Heddy Matthias and Lori Gregory will face off in the undercard dueling with dangling participles and other um, devices. Robbie Bell will perform Her two latest songs: My Best Friends are in the Media and Mama's, Don't Let Your Babies Grow up to be George Bell. Sid Salter of The Clarion-Ledger will host "Pin the Tail on the Trial Lawyer", sponsored by State Farm.

There will be a hugging booth where in exchange for your young son, Frank Melton will give you a loooong hug. Trollfest will have a dunking booth where Muhammed the terrorist will curse you to Allah as you try to hit a target that will drop him into a vat of pig grease. However, in the true spirit of Separate But Equal, Don Imus and someone from NE Jackson will also sit in the dunking booth for an equal amount of time. Tom Head will give a reading for two hours on why he can't figure out who the hell he is. Cliff Cargill will give lessons with his .80 caliber desert eagle, using Frank Melton photos as targets. Tackleberry will be on hand for an autograph session. KIM Waaaaaade will be passing out free titles and deeds to crackhouses formerly owned by The Wood Street Players.

If you get tired come relax at the Fox News Tent. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both will entitle you to free drinks.Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required, just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '07 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.

Note: Security provided by INS