The Poetry Slow Down with Professor Barbara Mossberg. In our show, broadcast live from Los Angeles, where John Muir died 103 years ago today, we consider his last words, sprawled as he lay in a hospital bed with the manuscript of Travels in Alaska. The book concludes extolling the beauty of aurora borealis, the Northern Lights, the most exalted he “has ever beheld. THE END.” At a time when the fates of the national parks and lands are uncertain, it is useful—and hopeful—to remember that John Muir’s heartache on his death, his mourning the drowning of Yosemite National Park’s Hetch Hetchy Valley for San Francisco’s supplemental water and power source, did not stop him from writing to preserve wilderness that still remained. And the furor over Congress’ 1913 decision to drown a national park valley led to the 1916 National Park System legislation. John Muir wanted to be the poet to the rescue to save wilderness, and in a profound way, he has done just that over time. How? He is, at the end of the day, a poetry man. His death certificate lists his occupation as Geologist, but it is as a poet that he created earthquakes in the minds and hearts of the American public. Today, we celebrate his work, building on poets from thousands of years, to behold earth so that we value it and save it. Thank you for joining our Poetry Slow Down, with Producer Zappa Johns, live at our podcast, Barbaramossberg.com
© Barbara Mossberg 2017
My little chickadees! Hello! This is your Professor Barbara Mossberg and I’m greeting you this dark December day, one of the shortest and darkest of the whole year, with the sound of a chickadee, on THE POETRY SLOW DOWN with Professor Barbara Mossberg, podcast at BarbaraMossberg.com, Produced by Zappa Johns, and it was my intention today to bring us news of encouragement via poetry, the all-time encourager for all dark times when we are lost in the middle of the woods in the middle of our lives as in Dante’s Inferno. . . with the likes of Tennyson and William Ernest Henley and Teddy Roosevelt and then poems of sustainability, poems of resilience, poems of endurance, poems of going on, and advice, and encouragement, from Cafavy, and Mark Strand, whose life we mark this week, Mark Strand, yes, the one who wrote one of my favorite lines, ink is dripping from the corners of my lips, there is no happiness like mine, I have been eating poetry, that Mark Strand, and many others, poems rooted in epic, the epic spirit of journey, of continuing on through storm and monster and captivity and spell and bad luck and ire of the gods and all the farfalle that befalls us as we strive to reach our Ithacas, as Odysseys in The Odyssey of three thousand years ago . . . and then in the tree outside the window is a chickadee, improbable against the drab cold gray of day, so here is our show today, THE NEWS OF CHICKADEE: RX IN A TIME OF STRUGGLE Brought to you by our poets of all time
An Emily Dickinson Poetry Shoe (if the show fits, hear it): how poets change our life and save the earth (and/or make it want to keep on), with music by Merrilee Rush, Kings of Leon, Yosef Islam, the former Cat Stevens, Elvis, and more . . . everyone wants to tell us about morning . . . how we are blessed with morning . . . and let us just say, we are blessed with such song and story in our day, making our day.
© Barbara Mossberg 2017
What if we approached poetry as a stadium event, we’ll consider that and amazing poems that shine in darkness and lift us today, and how we need this light, in the context of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s national recruiting calls for “The Poet” and the relation of American football and politics and poetry and civic consciousness and resilience—We’ll dine on plenty of Whitman, Homer, and the lights of Ezra Pound, Mark Strand, Diane Ackerman, Brene Brown, Tolkien, Shakespeare, Robert Frost, Martin Luther King, Jr., Plato, a little Dickinson (goes a long way), William Stafford, Leonard Cohen, a way lit with Jack Gilbert, Joseph Brodsky, Martin Luther King, Kahil Bigran, James Wright, William Carlos Williams, Jane Hirshfield, Lucille Clifton, Pablo Neruda, Piere Joris, Bill Stafford, Pimone Triplett, Mary Oliver, Ander Monson! Virginia Woolf graces us, with news on us as readers, we who read poetry are so blessed.
© Barbara Mossberg
I’ll admit some of them run over a thousand pages. Some are translated from Sumerian on clay tablets. Some are from Spanish, Greek, French, olde English, and quirky as the day is long. Poetry, prose, drama, spoken, written, sung, they have messages for us for how we live our daily lives. I’m reporting to you live from Washington, D.C., fresh from thinking about my students at the Clark Honors College, University of Oregon, and through their eyes, the meaning of classics lights our world, and heals the heart, and gives us hope. Is that all, Dr. B? No, it is not. Through the eyes of our next leaders of society, classic texts are good nutrition, vegan, organic, and gluten free. Thank you joining in!
From November, 2015:
I reflect that kind is three quarters kin. Our bonds, the actual equation of us, the Mayan saying, you are my other me. Emily Dickinson’s I’m Nobody draws us in to this secret shared identity. We are in this together. We ARE this together. We are the metaphor, that impossibility of connection, the poet’s vision. Dickinson is providing me spiritual leadership during this time of a French which is a world crisis. Our poetry organizations, you, Poetry Slow Down listeners, provide me solace of community as we reel from the revelation that no place is safe. But we have to live as if it is still our beloved world.
I TOOK my power in my hand
And went against the world;
’T was not so much as David had,
But I was twice as bold.
I aimed my pebble, but myself
Was all the one that fell.
Was it Goliath was too large, Or only I too small?
The poetry shoe of poetic feet in the headline news, late-breaking, fate-making, heart-breaking, heart-shaking, the news of “despised” and “difficult” poems “without which men die miserably every day” (Dr. William Carlos Williams). The news this week brings to the fore poetic language that challenges us to think more wisely—in terms of fairness, kindness, humanity. It’s not easy to think this way: Einstein calls for empathy and compassion, and it’s e=mc2, rocket science. Nor to speak up, out, for, against. To return to Dickinson, whom we don’t usually associate with putting herself out there in the public sphere, of course she did, boldly, altogether self-consciously, knowing what was at stake: committing oneself to words on paper is to enter the fray, engage with one’s times and all times, and add energy to the public discourse. It doesn’t always end well, at least in the short term. Dickinson herself, still unpublished and unknown, with no voice in her world, says,
They shut me up in Prose –
As when a little Girl
They put me in the Closet –