Ponderings by Henri Bensussen
MCWC board member,
Mendocino Quill's editor, a.k.a. The Maven
The Maven is feeling down and disappointed, a boxer laid flat. An email announces yet another journal has found her poems “not right for us” and suggests she publish “elsewhere.” The bell is about to ring. She needs to rise, to stagger over to that little stool they give even the heavyweights so her coach can pronounce the magic words that keep her on her feet for a few more rounds, hoping a story or poem will be not only accepted but actually published.
What are those words? Her father would have said “Can’t have your cake and eat it too,” a motto she never found logical, though intuitively she knew what he meant. Her poems might look beautiful sitting on a plate and iced with chocolate, but they weren’t bread and would bring her no living wage. He figured she’d either marry early someone like himself, or follow his advice and become a librarian. Her mother would have said, “Why aren’t you dating a nice Jewish boy instead of sitting around writing or reading all day? Look where it’s gotten you—a bloody nose.”
The Maven needs a different kind of coach, someone not part of the family. A friend maybe, someone who appreciates those creative impulses that writers cannot escape. Writers write because they have to. They send out work to share with the world, hoping for the reward of acceptance, and to hear a reader respond with words like “Hurrah!” “Loved it!” “Can’t wait to read more!”
Looking at the sentences she just wrote flowing over a pixelated screen that looks like an artist’s canvas, The Maven realizes she’s given herself those magic words by remembering what’s been said about her work. When she needed them, she was able to draw them out and paint herself an escape. Memories of praise and memories of rejection, both kinds waiting to be called on in turn.
The sustaining nature of sincere words of recognition have helped many writers, in spite of continuing disappointments, to write themselves out of a negative situation and into a different outcome, creating art out of discouragement, a submission to the drive to be heard by using the silence of the crafted word in its written form. The Maven waves a worn, blood-stained glove to her fans in the crowd, shrugs into a shabby robe, and limps out of the ring, looking ahead to another bout for that elusive prize called publication.