by Diya Chaudhuri
The other day, I went out drinking for the first time in months. We’d taken a visiting writer out to dinner before his reading, and whoops, I got tipsy. Our poetry editor, Jenny, picked me up to drive me to the reading, but we saw this flash of color by the dumpster, and now I have this enormous portrait of a pretty lady in my tiny apartment, and I don’t know what to do with it. It was colorful. I was defenseless against the colors.
A mondegreen is a kind of misunderstanding: you mishear a word or phrase in a way that gives it a different meaning. I’d argue that it’s just a new meaning, an equally valid meaning. I’d argue that my dad is somehow right in his own way — Jon Bon Jovi should be Jon Anchovy, and can be Jon Anchovy, if only we’d all agree to it. It would just be better that way.
And I think the same can be said about art. While interviewing to teach a workshop for high schoolers, I realized the thing I was most excited about was that high schoolers would fuck everything up. Do you remember high school, and the exuberance of ignorance? Of knowing that you were young, and that nobody expected you to know the answer yet? One of the great misfortunes of adulthood is that we’ve learned things by the time we reach it, and we spend our days devoted to the task of not fucking up. We edit our stories for grammar as we write them. We count each line of poetry down to the syllable, and god help you if there are anywhere NEAR 14 lines. Everyone you know will demand, absolutely DEMAND that you try it as a sonnet. Most infuriatingly, we sit around our formal and informal writing groups and ask each other “why did you make this choice in your piece?” as if we don’t know damn well that the most, even the only acceptable answer in the end is just “because I felt like it.”
The Mondegreen will publish poetry, fiction, and essays about literature, art, film, and probably the Food Network and college football alongside interviews, reviews, and you know what, whatever else we want.
In naming this project after a mistake, we don’t mean to say that we want your error-riddled, hastily shot-off drivel, but we do want the work that isn’t afraid of being wrong. We want something that we can’t quite recognize, but which feels uncannily familiar. We want to get spooked by it or laugh or maybe both. All of that.
When I woke up the morning after that reading, I realized that this was just a sincere fashion photograph, and that it makes no sense in my home. Right now, the giant pretty lady is putting in some time as my headboard. Sometimes, I walk into the room forgetting that she’s just in there being huge, and she makes me jump out of my skin. I have no idea what I’m going to do with her. But I still kind of love her and her dress and her colors. I love her more because Jenny snagged a nearby antique dumpster chair that had a “Property of Tyler Perry Studios” sticker on it, so I imagine he might have touched my giant pretty lady at some point. I’m keeping her. Whatever I do with her, it will look strange, but it’s my home, and I feel like it.