Cupids Health

The New York School Diaspora (Part Fifteen): Ron Padgett [by Angela Ball]


Over There

I have always assumed that my body would provide
reliable transportation to carry me through the day
and no I will not extend that metaphor
and if you know what that means
you’ll know what I mean.

John Ashbery once said
“I never get up before the crack of noon.”
Pope Francis said
“I am Argentinian. You know
how an Argentinian commits suicide?
He climbs up on top of his ego and jumps off.”
“That’s all, Bruno,”
Fairfield Porter said to his dog.
Does it help to know that Bruno was a golden retriever?
And that Fairfield was invisible?

–Ron Padgett

Ron Padgett’s How Long was a Pulitzer Prize finalist in poetry and his Collected Poems won the LA Times Prize for the best poetry book of 2014 and the William Carlos Williams Award from the Poetry Society of America. His translations include Zone: Selected Poems of Guillaume Apollinaire and Blaise Cendrars’ Complete Poems. Seven of his poems were used in Jim Jarmusch’s film, Paterson. Padgett’s most recent collection is Big Cabin (Coffee House Press). Forthcoming is Dot (Coffee House Press). New York City has been his home base since 1960.

Ron Padgett


The New York School Diaspora (Part Fifteen): Ron Padgett [by Angela Ball]

Carved from silence, Ron Padgett’s “Over There,” refuses to “extend” its opening metaphor. Yet it is expansive. As in Frank O’Hara’s poems, all people known in fact or reputation, living or dead, are free to enter, to be heard. “I never get up before the crack of noon,” says John Ashbery, at once sardonic and cheerful, invoking both “crack of dawn” and “crack of doom.” The pope, God’s arm on earth, imagines his own suicide in a joke—though in it, his ego remains, a vertical ghost.

As in Kenneth Koch’s late poem, “Proverb,” “Les morts vont vite.” Though we may prefer to regard mortality as “over there,” world vanishes for all: poet, pope, dog, even painter—maestro of the visible (of course, he names his dog a color, a color the dog isn’t). Reading Fairfield Porter’s succinct send-off to Bruno, we hear Mel Blanc’s Porky Pig sputter “Th-that’s all, folks”—the phrase Blanc chose as epitaph.

The office Fairfield Porter performs for his dog, Ron Padgett’s “Over There” performs for us. In surrounding mortality with play, he looses its darkness. Art’s scarifying knowledge confers power. Yes, it helps.

–Angela Ball

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