“The Coming of the Toads” is the title of a short poem by E. L. Mayo (1904-1979):
“‘The very rich are not like you and me,’
Sad Fitzgerald said, who could not guess
The coming of the vast and gleaming toads
With precious heads which, at a button’s press,
The flick of a switch, hop only to convey
To you and me and even the very rich
The perfect jewel of equality.”
E. L. Mayo. Summer Unbound and Other Poems, the University of Minnesota Press, 1958 (58-7929). Also, E. L. Mayo. Collected Poems. New Letters, University of Missouri – Kansas City. Volume 47, Nos. 2 & 3, Winter-Spring, 1980-81.
The young toads were ugly televisions, but those eerily glowing tubes contained a lovely irony. The toads invaded indiscriminately. The bluish-green light emitted from the eyes of the toads emerged from every class of home, all experiencing the same medium for their evening massage. Mayo’s poem is a figurative evaluation of the effects of media on culture.
In Fitzgerald’s short story “The Rich Boy” (1926), the narrator says, “Let me tell you about the very rich. They are different from you and me.” But Mayo doesn’t seem to be quoting from Fitzgerald’s story. He seems to be referencing the famous, rumored exchange by the two rich-obsessed, repartee aficionados Hemingway and Fitzgerald. Hemingway wrote, in his short story “The Snows of Kilimanjaro” (1936):
“He remembered poor Julian and his romantic awe of them and how he had started a story once that began, ‘The very rich are different from you and me.’ And how some one had said to Julian, Yes, they have more money. But that was not humorous to Julian. He thought they were a special glamourous race and when he found they weren’t it wrecked him just as much as any other thing that wrecked him.”
Did TV have a democratizing effect, or are its effects numbing? In Act 2, Scene 1, of Shakespeare’s “As You Like It,” Duke Senior, just sent to the woods without TV, mentions the toad’s jewel:
“Now, my co-mates and brothers in exile, hath not old custom made this life more sweet than that of painted pomp? Are not these woods more free from peril than the envious court? Here feel we but the penalty of Adam, the seasons’ difference, as the icy fang and churlish chiding of the winter’s wind, which, when it bites and blows upon my body, even till I shrink with cold, I smile and say ‘This is no flattery: these are counselors that feelingly persuade me what I am.’ Sweet are the uses of adversity, which, like the toad, ugly and venomous, wears yet a precious jewel in his head; and this our life exempt from public haunt finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks, sermons in stones and good in every thing. I would not change it.”
Poor Fitzgerald didn’t embrace television, but today he would cradle a metamorph tadpole in his lap. What would it convey? The toad’s jewel is more than a metaphor; the churlish shows of television are today the Duke’s counselors. We enter the space of the light box, and the toad’s jewel poisons us to the paradox of staying put, to electronic exile, but does it contain its own antidote, the toadstone? The short Mayo poem captures the concerns The Coming of the Toads blog amplifies: the effects of media on culture; reading and writing; the technologically engaged sensorium encaged in light-show effects; the anecdotal essay; the poem as pun, metaphor as doubt; what to read, and how; and what to write, and how.
Working on early draft of Penina’s Letters, circa 1975.
The Coming of the Toads is written by Joe Linker
I attended El Camino College and California State University at Dominguez Hills, completing a BA in English, with a minor in 20th Century Thought and Expression, and an MA in English, while putting in six years in the Army California National Guard (Wheeled and Track Vehicle Mechanic). Two decades of adjunct work (Portland Community College, Warner Pacific University) bookend 25 years in what Han-shan called the “red dust” of business (CPCU, 1992). I was a Hawthorne Fellow at the Attic Institute of Arts and Letters, Summer 2012. I was poetry editor for Queen Mob’s Teahouse from March 2019 until early 2020, then Letters and Essays editor until June.
I’ve written and published a few books and writings appearing outside The Coming of the Toads:
- “Writing on Jeremy Fernando’s ‘writing skin’,” Berfrois, 18 Feb 2020.
- “Bells,” Berfrois, 8 Nov 2019.
- “In Transit,” One Imperative, 3 Nov 2019.
- “10 Years of Berfrois,” Berfrois, 25 Oct 2019.
- “Divine Comedy,” The Sultan’s Seal, 21 Aug 2019.
- “What Goodness Knows,” Berfrois, 5 Aug 2019.
- “Paintings and Poems: City on a Hill,” Berfrois, 5 Jun 2019.
- “AWP Diary,” Berfrois, 16 Apr 2019.
- “Taking the Call,” Queen Mob’s Tea House, 13 Mar 2019.
- “Nativity Scene,” Queen Mob’s Tea House, 30 Nov 2018.
- “The Fall is into Technology,” Berfrois, 19 Nov 2018, book review of Jessica Sequeira’s Other Paradises: Poetic Approaches to Thinking in a Technological Age.
- “Notes on ‘Bad Boy Poet’,” Queen Mob’s Tea House, 13 Nov 2018.
- “Notes on Julian Gallo’s The Penguin and The Bird,” Queen Mob’s Tea House, 2 Oct 2018.
- “Notes on Jessica Sequeira’s ‘A Furious Oyster’,” Queen Mob’s Tea House, 18 Sep 2018.
- “Pure and Faultless Elation Emerging from Hiding,” Singapore Review of Books, 6 Mar 2018 (revised version from what appeared at the Toads).
- “Read Surfing: The Word Made Pixel,” Berfrois, 21 Feb 2018.
- “Rake the Sentiment,” Cosmopolitan Hotel Cairo, 26 Dec 2017.
- Philippa Rees Reviews “Alma Lolloon,” Queen Mob’s Tea House, 29 Nov 2017.
- “Vlad Interviews Joe Linker,” Queen Mob’s Tea House, 24 Nov 2017.
- “Notes on Jessica Sequeira’s Rhombus and Oval,” Berfrois, crossposted 18 Nov 2017.
- “Body of Christ and Body Politic,” Berfrois, crossposted 26 Aug 2017.
- “Postage,” Queen Mob’s Tea House, 27 Jun 2017.
- “Love is an Idiocy,” Berfrois, 2 May 2017.
- “Milk,” The Sultan’s Seal, 20 Feb 2017.
- “Notes on the Human Condition and Its Expression,” Queen Mob’s Tea House, crossposted 3 Jan 2017.
- “All the World’s a Bill-bard,” Berfrois, 16 Dec 2016.
- “In Bed With Joe Linker,” Queen Mob’s Tea House, 22 Aug 2016.
- “Scamble and Cramble: Two Hep Cats and Other Tall Tales,” Jul 2016 (concrete comics for children of all ages).
- “Coconut Oil,” a Novel, Jun 2016.
- “A Visual Depiction of the Chapter ‘On a Surfboard in Santa Monica Bay’” [from the novel “Penina’s Letters”], VERStype, 20 May 2016.
- Excerpt from “Penina’s Letters,” Berfrois, 29 Apr 2016.
- Excerpt from “Penina’s Letters,” The Sultan’s Seal, 24 Apr 2016.
- “Penina’s Letters,” a Novel, Mar 2016.
- “Migrations,” Queen Mob’s Tea House, crossposted 1 Mar 2016.
- “16 Tiny Gold Camels Found in Wood Box in Garage Stale,” VERStype, 13 Dec 2015.
- “Li Po’s Restless Night: Improvisations on a Theme,” Berfrois, 29 Sep 2015.
- Interview with Russell Bennetts, “Poets Online Talking About Coffee,” Queen Mob’s Tea House, 16 Jun 2015.
- “Learning to Deconstruct Finally,” Queen Mob’s Tea House, crossposted 1 Jun 2015.
- “One Night at Flobe’s Pizza Below Frye’s Apartment,” Queen Mob’s Tea House, crossposted 12 May 2015.
- “Come-Unity,” with Sunshine Dixon, Knight Times, 30 Apr 2015.
- “Lavish Land,” Miriam’s Well, 12 Apr 2015.
- “Amorous Birds of Play-by-play,” Glasgow Review of Books, 9 Jan 2015.
- “Waiting for Marjane,” The Sultan’s Seal, 20 Jul 2014.
- “Haiku,” Miriam’s Well, 24 Jun 2014, expanded, illustrated version here.
- Two Poems: “Ray, 1956” and “Watermarks from a Night Spring,” at Berfrois, 24 Jul 2013. Web.
- A shout-out at The Dish, “Why Pray?” 24 Mar 2013, excerpted from “On Prayer and Poetry” posted at Berfrois as “A Monk Surfing,” 20 Mar 2013.
- Excerpts from work in progress, “Penina’s Letters,” at The Boulevard: a publication of the Hawthorne Fellows at the Attic Institute: Issue # 5 (Special Issue: Liberation), Sep 2012; Issue # 4, Jul 2012; Issue # 3, Jun 2012. Web.
- Crossposts at Berfrois, various dates 2012 thru 2015. Web.
- “The Value of Time and Pressure,” re-posted in The Experience Magazine, Winter 2011. Print & Web.
- “Sex and the Vote,” The Oregonian, 4 Nov 2010. Print & Web.
- “An object lesson in health and happiness,” The Oregonian, 28 Aug 2009. Print & Web.
- “Epiphany” appeared in Rocinante, Spring 2009, Vol. 8. Print.
- “A Grammar of Love,”The Christian Science Monitor, 28 May 2009. Print & Web.