Ponderings by Henri Bensussen, MCWC board member and
Mendocino Quill's editor, a.k.a. The Maven
The Maven is reading Nicholson Baker’s Traveling Sprinkler, and learning how to string a bunch of scenes together into a novel. The traveling sprinkler is a metaphor for Baker’s rambling thoughts, which he shapes into a story about a search for the right words to bring his lost woman back. As in fairy tales, he acquires magic, in this case various Cuban cigars, which knock him into altered states. The Maven, of course, can relate, as she has also sought such states, but often it’s left her flat on the floor rather than doing any kind of writing.
Art is metaphorical as well, the Maven thinks when she cruises past an artist and her assistant (www.streetcolor.wordpress.com) doing their final installation for the Mendocino Crayon Box project. They had wound colored felt around columns and over doorframes, and now were doing the side of a building. Layers of different colored felt were rolled together, then sliced into rounds that were attached in various patterns to large pieces of felt. The Maven instantly thought of knishes, which are made the same way, a filling rolled up in dough and sliced into rounds. A knish tastes good, she remembers in a fit of nostalgia, like the sprinkling of polka dots of orange and blue and green brighten up an old building.
The Maven’s rambling thoughts this week concern publishing her poetry chapbook. Many of her friends ask, “What’s a chapbook? Do you mean chart-book? Chip-book?” She answers, politely, “It’s a book of less than 48 pages.” She remembers asking a former boss, at a university press, a similar question. “A scholarly book,” he told her, “sells less than 1,500 copies over ten years.” Then he stomped back into his office and closed the door. So many of us these days, the Maven thinks, are scholarly writers without even knowing it. If you want to find out more about chapbooks, the Maven suggests http://www.thethepoetry.com/2012/02/chapbooks-a-short-history-of-the-short-book/ as a place to start.