NICE WORK | Paula Bonnell dives deep into the imagery and intimacy of words.
by Paula Bonnell
My ideal job? I would select, for each
page of the dictionary, the words to be
illustrated in the margin. Then
find a suitable illustration. Imagine
the pleasure in reviewing the page
skylight to slather and selecting
skywriting and slapstick. Putting
down the page proof, I’m off
to the archives, or the museum, or
an evening of old flicks, and Eureka!
a shot of the sky above a skyscraper,
its grey (blue) written over with
a mysterious white scrawl, part
of a word, perhaps the very message
that eluded the characters in
Mrs. Dalloway; then seizing on
that still of Chico Marx “dousing
a girl with paste” or, more accurately,
pausing as the paste-doused girl
raises her hands in mock defense to ward
off another toss, her warning
belied by her provocative
hipshot stance as she gazes out
from under paste-clotted bangs, looking
directly at him, and he stands, bucket
at the ready, immobilized, studying
her paste-drenched dress.
And as I pen this job description,
I can’t help but remember how, as we
waited for the play to begin, I described
my teenage desire to choose
pictures to illustrate the book
reviews in the Sunday New York Times
and you confided your ambition,
at the same age: to choose the paintings
for the covers of the Penguin Classics.
Paula Bonnell’s poems have appeared widely in the U.S. – APR, The Hudson Review, Rattle and more, also in England, India, and Australia as well as in four collections: Message, Ciardi Prize winner Airs & Voices, Before the Alphabet, and tales retold. A short story of hers won a PEN Syndicated Fiction Project award; Bonnell is a PEN New England Discovery writer.