Vox Populi

A Public Sphere for Poetry, Politics, and Nature

Bart Plantenga: Jose Padua’s Poems — Where The Length Of The Titles Are, If Not Everything, At Least Something To Amuse Or Amaze

There’s no disputing it: Jose Padua writes some of the most meaningful poems being written today about today. They are DIY soulful and this is especially important in a world of writing-workshop-tweaked, edited-by-committee, consumer-tested poetry bubbling from the heady realms of over-priced universities that pursue the glib parameters of the meme-framed minds and the contemporary, impatient, flash-fiction-attention-span zeitgeist.

But what appeals at first glance are the protracted Homeric lengths of Padua’s poem titles. With the breath of Ginsberg as funneled through the mystical lungs of Whitman, the lines roll out like a looong red carpet as he pays tribute to his role models. Alfred Jarry, known to tweak some establishment presumptions, always stretching credulity to its tensile strength max, sometimes invented longish titles [“Explorations and Opinions of Doctor Fausteroll, Pataphysician”]. The lucid, playful absurdism of Richard Brautigan is sometimes enhanced by his lengthy titles [“To A Pomegranate Ending, Then 186,000 Endings Per Second”].

The Elizabethans often came up with lengthy book titles that offered tantalizing details of what one might expect in the text itself. The sonnets of Shakespeare, Spenser and others were often simply numbered Sonnet 1, 2, etc., but gained a more descriptive title when the sonnets began to be called not only by number but alsoby it’s opening line, creating some Padua-esque titles like Shakespeare’s “Sonnet 65: Since brass, nor stone, nor earth, nor boundless sea.”

An over-populated publishing world demands attention-getting conceits. If scandal or crime or celebrity are not on your CV, then perhaps a long book title will gain you the proper clickbait attention. There are countless contemporary examples – many are humorous children’s books – but also others such as Peter Weiss’s The Persecution and Assassination of Jean-Paul Marat as Performed by the Inmates of the Asylum of Charenton Under the Direction of the Marquis de Sade and the anthology Noisy outlaws, unfriendly blobs, and some other things that aren’t as scary, maybe, depending on how you feel about lost lands, stray cellphones, creatures from the sky, parents who disappear in Peru, a man named Lars Farf, and one other story we couldn’t quite finish, so maybe you could help us out.

And then there is the current absurd standard bearer: S. Subramonian’s book, which was promptly abbreviated by Amazon.com to Daniel Radcliffe… (1,022 words) as it is a ridiculous, attention-craving 1022 words long and begins: “Daniel Radcliffe the story of the not so ordinary boy chosen from thousands of hopefuls to play the role of Harry Potter who faced the world’s media for the first time and admitted to …”

But perhaps Padua’s titles [and the poems themselves] are most reminiscent of two of his faves, Charles Bukowski [Play the Piano Drunk Like a Percussion Instrument Until the Fingers Begin to Bleed a Bit] and Frank O’Hara [“On Seeing Larry Rivers’ Washington Crossing the Delawareat the Museum of Modern Art.”]

For his 60thbirthday [or was it his 25th??] I offered him my suggestions for future poem titles in the form of this list poem: “15 Suggested Poem Titles For Jose Padua On His Birthday,” presented here along with two of Jose’s own legendarily titled poems: “The First of a Billion Steps Toward Eternity and the Enlightenment that Comes from Being Thankful for the Color of Plums” and “On This Day in the Summer of 2014 When The Ohio Players Reunite to Play Several Songs in My Car and in My Head.”

15 Suggested Poem Titles For Jose Padua On His Birthday

[Which Can Be Especially Handy If You Have A Word Count Limit And The Title Doesn’t Count Or, In The Event You Are Being Paid $.02 Per Word, Does Count]

1. The Day I Woke Up and Wished I Hadn’t Because Justin Bieber’s “Band” Was Sleeping On Our Living Room Floor and I Could Not Explain Away Their Presence To Maggie Without Using My Secretly Acquired Lip-Syncing Skills

2. Back When The East Village Considered Me King [I Thought] For Staring Down The Jukebox In The Life Cafe Until It Played Something Excellent By Sun Ra And The Hippest Bar, Max Fish, Hired Me To Be Their In-House DJ As A Result, But Which Lasted Only One Week Because I Played Too Much Gertrude Stein And Robert Ashley

3. We Were Down At The Shore But Some Republican Council Toad Had Confiscated Our Beach And Left Behind A Tapestry of 350 Cheap American Eagle Beach Towels Placed Side By Side And He Thought Everybody Would Be Grateful – But I Wasn’t

4. The School Bake Sale That Never Happened When A Fight Between Rival Bake Clubs Broke Out Over A Parking Spot Turned Ugly And The Parking Lot Looked A Lot Like A Jackson Pollock Painting Done In Sponge Cake, Cupcake And Weird-Ass Colored Icings

5. The Day The Home-Schooled White Supremacist City Councillor Convinced The Majority In Town That I Was The Racist For Making People Feel Uneasy About Their Own Identities And Determined That A Safe And Comfortable Distance of 100 Feet Whenever I Was Around Would Temporarily Ensure Adequate Safe Space For The Locals

6. What To Say When A Neighbor Comes Over Drunk And Unannounced To Stare At Our Guests, The Meat Puppets, Who Are Eating Tater Tots With Gusto On A Day Off From Their Reunion Tour, Heading To Washington To Play My Old Hangout I Thought Went Out Of Business In 1992

7. That Day The Republican Party Exploded When At A Party Gathering I Told Them That Playing Elton John Songs Dating From After “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” At Dangerous Volumes Is Not Only A Health Risk But Will Only Further Erode America’s Reputation As A Leading International Style Icon Builder

8. The Dream That Wrecked The Democratic Party On The Night I Read My Poem Praising Cornel West Together With Russian Poet-Friend Evguénie Sokolov And Accusations Of Spying  And Colluding With The Enemy And Revoked Our Membership But I Denounced Them As The Enemy Of The People Of Excellent Poetry In An Op-Ed Piece Nobody Wanted To Publish

9. The Night We Ate At Denny’s And The Waitress Forgot Our Fries And As An Apology Sang Brenda Lee’s “I’m Sorry” Holding A Dirty “Crazy Skillet” Platter In One Hand And A Dirty “Lumberjack Slam” Plate In The Other Because At Denny’s You Can Always Have Breakfast For Dinner

10. There Was The Day That Walmart Security Accused Me Of Shoplifting The Thelonious Monk CD “Monk’s Dream” I Had In My Pocket Even After I Showed Them That This Branch Had Never Ever Carried Anything By Monk And That Indeed Walmart Had A Policy Of Never Carrying Anything By Monk For Fear of Alienating Loyal Shoppers [PS, My Mugshot Is Now In Their Database Marked “Potential Threat To The Public Order”]

11. I Woke Up One Day And It Was My 60thBirthday And I Was Sitting In Front Of The Computer Wearing A Pair Of Boxer Shorts I Bought In 1994 on Canal Street When I Noticed That 20 Million Republicans Had Already Wished Me A Happy Birthday On Facebook And I Had To Thank Each One of Them Personally – Or Else Be Called An Ungrateful Immigrant Forever

12. Upon The Dream Of America As A Burning Monster Truck Bursting Through The Starbucks Next To Arlington Cemetery Where 54 Filipinos Are Buried And Not Celebrating And Then Hearing On CNN That The Monster Truck’s Driver Was Offered A Six-Figure Book Deal To Explain His Side Of The Story

13. A Long Title For A Short History Of The Genius I Dug Up In A Back Yard That Was Not My Own And Thus I Could Not Legally Sell It On E-Bay And So Instead I Wrapped It In Duct Tape And Discreetly Deposited This Genius In A Dumpster Behind The Royal Avenue Arby’

14. Mark Zuckerberg’s Extensive Knowledge Of Me Leaves A Bad Taste In My Mouth That Reminds Me Of The Worst Hamburger I Ever Shared With Cockroaches On Houston Street Before Reading A Poem About Barfing At Another Poetry Reading On The Evening After The First World Trade Center Bombing In February 1993 When There Was Nothing I Could Do To Make The World Feel Better Except Shut Up

15. Why The Knowledge That Trump Is A Non-Drinker Led Me To Reach For An Oversized Big Gulp Plastic Cup Filled With Crushed Ice And The Cheapest Bourbon I Could Find To Officially Protest The Downsides Of Teetotaling In A Morally Superior Manner

  • bart plantenga

The First of a Billion Steps Toward Eternity and the Enlightenment that Comes from Being Thankful for the Color of Plums

For everyone who has ever contemplated self-destruction,

self-immolation, or such anger

as to perpetuate century upon century

of war and strife,

consider the prospects that arrive

with the changing of seasons.

A stretching of daylight

into what of late had been

under the providence of dusk;

or a mist of sea scent filling one’s breath

the way rest soothes the air

that surrounds a person

running away from whatever can’t run

quite as fast.

And although every day someone dies,

each of us dies on only one day,

which means there will be days

when you come out

smelling like a large room

housing a single tiny rose.

And as the world disappears

beneath the noise of stupid television shows,

electronic conversations conducted by idiots,

and dull information sent

from city to city masquerading

as truth and deep thought,

remember that he who dies

with the most toys

doesn’t win,

but instead becomes another product

that has achieved the long, slow crawl

to its expiration date,

and that eternal happiness,

like the ripening of plums,

is best approached

with small, steady steps.

  • Jose Padua

On This Day in the Summer of 2014 When The Ohio Players Reunite to Play Several Songs in My Car and in My Head

Back in the summer

of 1975

the thought never

occurred to me

that one day

I’d be dropping off

my kids at camp

for the day

while listening

to The Ohio Players’

“Sweet Sticky Thing.”

As I was just seventeen

that summer and

had just graduated

from high school

there were innumerable

essential ideas

and concepts that

had never crossed

my mind at that point,

but for some reason

on this summer morning

nearly four decades later

this seems the most

significant of them all.

And because it’s

my first real observation

for the day,

that means that

like a great bass line,

it’s laying the

foundation for

everything else that

may come to mind

in the hours, weeks,

days, and years

that lie ahead,

until that slow

quiet moment

when the radio station

in my head

signs off for a billion

or more nights.

  • Jose Padua

Copyright 2018 Bart Plantenga and Jose Padua

Read more at  bart plantenga & Vox Populi / read more Jose Padua at Shenandoah Showdown & Vox Populi

One comment on “Bart Plantenga: Jose Padua’s Poems — Where The Length Of The Titles Are, If Not Everything, At Least Something To Amuse Or Amaze

  1. Gospel Isosceles
    December 8, 2018

    Hilarious!

    Liked by 2 people

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