Words And Music by Lo Galluccio
Hanging with Chad
The verse, politics and humor of the Stone Soup host
(Originally published in the September 2006 issue of The Alewife)
Sarcastic Haiku 3: American Haiku
Americans make the rules.
Sarcastic Haiku 33: American Haiku 2
Sequels can be just as good
Four more years! Four more years!
Sarcastic Haiku 53: American Haiku
Presents: the Iraqi Government
Bombing makes it hard to hear.
We are free. We are free.
Chad Parenteau admits that his haikus are innately political and come from a sense of outrage. Unlike longer-form poems, they offer quick impact, a punch, if you will toward the enemy. As Chad and I spoke in La Luna Café on Massachusetts Avenue, he said, “It’s like having a CNN camera in your face for a few seconds and giving Bush the finger.” Not that he isn’t sensitive toward the tradition of a formal Japanese haiku…usually a poem that is in three lines of five, seven and five syllables relating to nature, but the American sarcastic haiku is his poetic invention. He says it actually embodies American arrogance anyway to do it like that. In fact, his haikus are really closer to the Japanese senryu which is like a haiku but doesn’t necessarily have a nature theme.
Chad began his haikus as “America was on the verge of bombing another former ally (Iraq),” And he didn’t know how many he would write, though at the time, in 2002, he had vowed to write a poem a week in a black bound notebook he showed me at the table. Bush’s re-election prompted more sarcastic haikus and the poet himself wonders how far he can take the invention, thinking in his own ironical way that it may just “self-destruct” as a concept. But for now, these pieces keep what Chad calls “the liberal id” going. Not proud to call himself a liberal these days because of the ineptness of many on the liberal Democratic side, he nevertheless believes that Bush has “legitimated arrogance and pure ignorance” in America. He also says that being a liberal, or having a liberal perspective is difficult these days because of the intense scrutiny of the right, who are in power and resort to quick backlash.
Parenteau will admit, also, that he knows both sides of the war. What got him going originally was a dear friend who spent a tour of duty in Iraq and would throw candy to the street kids. “I see both sides,” he says. Chad also works as technician for the Veterans Administration in Jamaica Plain, but says his poetry is not much connected to what he does for a living.
When writing longer poems, Chad says it’s most important to him that a poem hinge on a unique image or metaphor, something he learned from a Doctor at Framingham State College where he did his undergraduate work. Later on he studied poetry at Emerson College in a Masters program. We talked about poetry genres: the difference between the performance poet and the page poet.
“A good poem is a good poem, either way,” he insists.
“You could take a slam poet like Regie Gibson and a page poet like Tom Daley and put them on the same bill.” “They’ll both get standing ovations.” But, he says, not only is the slam not for him –“I don’t have that kick”—he describes it as largely a "marketing strategy to sell performance poetry."
He only wishes the page poets could come up with something as powerful, sometimes.
Born of French-Canadian descent, Chad’s work will soon be published in a Franco-American collection called French Connections, alongside some top-notch writers like Mark Strand. He’s also had work published by can we have our ball back?, Main Street Press, Shampoo, Wolf Moon Press and other print and online publications. He is also well-known in the Boston-area poetry scene as the “host” of the Stone Soup Poetry series.
While others are content to label him thusly, Chad shakes off the title, saying, “I don’t’ run Stone Soup; I ride it like mechanical bull. It’s been around longer than me and it will hopefully be around long after me.”
Still, Parenteau has for the past year or so kept the booking and website going at this popular Monday night venue held at the Out of the Blue Gallery on Prospect Street in Cambridge. He acknowledges that the work is a handful but remains steadfastly committed to bringing in new audience (who just want to listen,) open mikers (who want to cut their teeth,) and features (folks who deserve the chance, perhaps having come to the open mike and been on the scene for a bit.) He sees Stone Soup as a kind of “Catch a Rising Star” on the poetry circuit.
And as for founder, Jack Powers, his presence, Parenteau feels, is still very much there, especially through his newly created website. Whether he will admit it or not, though, Chad’s humor, generosity and enthusiasm make him a very effective and suitable M.C. for the venue, which, last time I visited, featured a small tribe of tough bikers and their poetry. To his credit, he can deal with a wide scope of people, and style of performance, seeming to savor it all.
Chad would like to evolve by staying out there as a poet and hopefully one day by sustaining a living as a writer. He was proud to be chosen to read in this year’s Boston Poetry Festival, a prestigious event, organized by Harris Gardner of Tapestry of Voices. He loves to read and sell books –his first chap is called Self-Portrait in Fire – to friends and family when they come, but of course the real thrill is when a stranger is touched by your voice, and comes up, after a reading, to make a purchase. The poet says, “I hope that thrill goes on forever.”
The Convenience Store Girl
Don’t even risk a quick glance
at her much-too-mature breasts.
She knows your choice of poisons--
the canned insults to your mother--
you take home with you for comfort
because you can’t afford beer,
correctly guesses the days between
your visits on the way home,
could tamper with your purchase
before you know you’ll you buy it,
inject drops of revenge quicker
than you could at the restaurant--
those customers whose allergies
rhymed with all the unknown names
of every tree in their back yard.