IF MY BOOK: Cardboard Clouds, Benjamin Niespodziany

Welcome to another installment of If My Book, the Monkeybicycle feature in which authors compare their recently released books to weird things. This week Benjamin Niespodziany writes about Cardboard Clouds, his new novella out from X-R-A-Y Lit.

If Cardboard Clouds were a single cloud, it would be a cumulonimbus. It would exist strictly as cardboard, of course, but boy would it float. A cumulonimbus large enough to contain all other clouds. I wrote over 100 cloud plays leading up to Cardboard Clouds. 91 squeezed their way into the book. The first cloud was formed on a brunch receipt on August 17, 2019. If Cardboard Clouds was a brunch receipt, it would be a brunch receipt to Chicago’s Avondale restaurant Jam, a restaurant no longer active, a restaurant no longer home. If Cardboard Clouds was a tree, it would be leafless, stoney, hearty bark.

If Cardboard Clouds were an echo, it would be an endless echo of endless voices. Annie Baker, Rachel B. Glaser, John Maradik, Jesse Ball, Thordís Björnsdottir, CAConrad, Adventure Time, Ren and Stimpy, Jonathan Ball, Gary Barwin, Stuart Ross, rob mclennan, C. Dylan Bassett, Tyler Crumrine, Daniel Borzutzky, Dalton Day, A.T. Grant, Quentin Dupieux, Daniil Kharms, Matvei Yankelevich, Eric Baus, Donna Stonecipher, Mary Zimmerman, Evan Williams, Evan Nicholls, Roy Andersson, Tarsem, Alex van Warmerdam, Vi Khi Nao, Jeremy Radin.

If Cardboard Clouds were an invention of monsters, it’d be a monstrous cloud, one that does nothing but cover one’s home every once in a while. In this style, it will rain, rain, rain. 

If Cardboard Clouds were an X-ray, the X-ray tech would tell it inside all that vapor is a misbehaving bike. Is a kite on a string, is a king on a bean bag, so sad to be alive. If Cardboard Clouds was a movie, it would be You, The Living, or Synecdoche, New York, or some other cinema with a comma in its title. Like Have Rocket, Will Travel.

If Cardboard Clouds were a gavel, it would be made of vapor and smoke. To thwack the simplest smack is to vanish and fade.

If Cardboard Clouds could sing and parade, it would keep its mouth shut, for a series of bees and snakes might escape. Or sneeze. You see, if Cardboard Clouds was a knee, I just don’t know what I’d do. 

Benjamin Niespodziany’s poetry and short fictions have appeared in Fence, Fairy Tale Review, Sporklet, Crazyhorse, and various others. Along with being featured in the Wigleaf Top 50, his writing has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize, Best of the Net, and Best Microfiction. His debut full-length poetry collection, No Farther Than the End of the Street, was released in November of 2022 through Okay Donkey Press. Follow him on X at @neonpajamas.

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