Vox Populi

A Public Sphere for Poetry, Politics, and Nature

Michael Simms: Blurbing Jose


Note: I was thrilled to be invited to write a blurb for Jose Padua’s first book A Short History of Monsters which was selected by Billy Collins as the winner of the 2019 Miller Williams Prize. In fact, I was so excited to have the opportunity to praise Jose’s poems that I wrote not one, but six blurbs, some of them completely inappropriate.

Jose Padua is not afraid to make friends with his demons. He invites them to a birthday party and introduces them to his children. He takes them on long walks on short leashes in the rain. He sings to them and strokes their furry little heads until they go to sleep.  But Jose is baffled by America where we pretend there are no demons, no monsters of any kind, only super-nice white people watering their lawns and having pleasant conversations in the sunlight about Ronald Reagan.

 Jose Padua describes his own monsters effectively: the stubborn demons of self-doubt, the riddling sphynx of self-defeating behavior, the unforgiving Grendel of interiorized racism, the giant termites of crippling nostalgia. But where are the other monsters? Where is Ala, the Slavic bad weather demon? Where is the African Kishi, the two faced seducer? Has Padua never heard of Senpoko,  the Japanese man-faced frog which guides newly deceased souls to the graveyard? There are over 1,000 known evil forces in the world, but in A Short History of Monsters, Padua has described only a few, the ones he’s most familiar with, the aswang  that threaten his children, the nunos that have lurked under his bed since he was a child, but where are the others? Where are my monsters of addiction, obsession, jealousy, suspicion and rage? Where are yours?

Every night, Heather sews Jose’s shadow onto his pajamas, and every night Shadow tears the stitches off with his teeth and goes out into the dark streets where he’s invisible. Shadow loves to play tricks on strangers, knocking a drink into the lap of the adulterer, moving in and out of the spotlight where strippers dance, men catching a glimpse of the shifting darkness. Shadow guides a needle into the arm of the boy who stole from his mother’s purse. Shadow jumps into a getaway car and steers it through a hole in the heart of the prison guard. Shadow sings in the rain, gets arrested, and gives prisoners hope, but not too much. Shadow works all night appearing, disappearing, drunk on disappointment, addicted to lies, wallowing in despair, finally crawling into bed around dawn. Jose finds Shadow in the bright morning, fully visible, stretching, yawning, a piece of darkness that follows Jose through the normal business of the day, Jose feeling a little tired and sad.

Most poets have seen Duende out of the corners of their eyes, shyly offering comments about their poems. But Jose knows her quite well. Years ago, they hung out on the Lower East Side, drinking and dancing at the clubs, returning to his shabby apartment to make wild love beneath sumptuous sheets. Lately, they’ve settled into a quieter life in rural Virginia, sitting in front of the fire with their two dogs – Loki and Lorca – asleep at their feet.

Jose Padua’s poems are the twitch of the tail of the cat stalking the mouse of your unconscious.

Jose Padua’s poems sneak up on you, put a hood over your face, and drug you with his cool smooth voice. When you wake up, you’re dressed in rags, and your only defense is your sense of absurdity.


Only one of these blurbs appears on the back cover of Jose’s book.

Copyright 2019 Michael Simms

11 comments on “Michael Simms: Blurbing Jose

  1. Arlene Weiner
    February 23, 2019

    Love the blurbs!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. abby zimet
    February 23, 2019

    i love all these: their furry little heads. you and jose are both grand

    Liked by 2 people

    • Vox Populi
      February 23, 2019

      Thanks, Abby. I love your gonzo journalism. Thanks for being part of Vox Populi!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. hezdavis
    February 23, 2019

    We are all monsters! Thanks for these blurb/poems. I’ll be more careful sewing on that shadow.Thanks for all your support over the years!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Bosselaar-Brown Laure-Anne
    February 23, 2019

    OK. I’m convinced! I’ll buy the book!

    Liked by 3 people

  5. Leo
    February 23, 2019

    Thank you and Vox Populi for bringing Jose Pauda to our attention. I ordered a copy of his book the first day he made the announcement on his website! He is a unique, needed voice.

    Liked by 3 people

  6. Tricia Knoll
    February 23, 2019

    Only one? But they are so wonderful.

    Liked by 2 people

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