In which our show showcases poets’ love of teaching (their poems are proof of the pudding) and in which I learn from students’ questions to me about the role and use of poetry in our lives, and, in their own discoveries of what poetry means to them, I come to new consciousness about what it means to me: yes, it’s a pretty great life, this teaching poetry, this learning with students, this being taught by earnest learning. This is The Poetry Slow Down, with me, Professor Barbara Mossberg, your grateful host, and our Producer Zappa Johns, recording us from California’s Central Coast, while I’m in my studio up in Eugene, Oregon where I’m teaching eco literature and Emerson and Einstein as poets, at the University of Oregon. We’ll hear notes of Rumi, and poems by Mark Strand, Billy Collins, William Carlos Williams, Dorothea Lasky, Mary Oliver, e.e. cummings, Diane Wakowski, Howard Neverov, Lucilla Perillo, Elizabeth Alexander, Yvor Winters, W.D. Snodgrass, Kenneth Koch, D. H. Lawrence, Brian Doyle, and more. The questions that sent me on this journey were by a team of students interviewing me for Faculty Friday for the Clark Honors College at the University of Oregon.Continue reading
A perspective on how we (should) spend our daily energies. A bossiness of poets weigh in, from the late (but always here) Mary Oliver, William Stafford, Raymond Carver, Emily Dickinson, Billy Collins, Lorine Neidecker, Alice Dunbar -Nelson, Gerald Manley Hopkins, William Butler Yeats, Christopher Smart, Richard Wilbur, John Milton, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Mark Doty, e.e. cummings (who loved the world as much?). There’s a lot of loving going on in the work of poets, and the world needs it: maybe this is all our work, loving the world. Yes, I guess, we’re pregaming Valentine’s Day, The Poetry Slow Down with Professor Barbara Mossberg, Produced by Zappa Johns.
Hello, and happy new year, O friends, O ears, hear hear! You’re slowing down for the Poetry Slow Down—you know you move too fast! You know you are supposed to slow down for your health, and mind, and spirit, and poetry is an excellent way of doing that, because it’s . . . well, it’s beautiful, but it’s also strange, let’s be frank, and difficult, and despised even—this isn’t just me talking, it’s William Carlos Williams, who says, my heart rouses thinking to bring you news that concerns you and concerns many men. It is difficult to get the news from despised news yet men die miserably every day for lack of what is found there. –That’s what he said in To Asphodel, That Greeny Flower. That’s a lot. That’s life and death. Now you could say, well, Dr. B, of course he is saying that, he’s a poet. He is an interest in our reading poetry. But his day job is a doctor. It’s his business to save lives. He writes poems on prescription pads, at the end of his day saving lives, with blood on his hands. He should know whereof he speaks, when he speaks of life and death and what can save us.
If “everything is alive” (Ian Chillag), e=mc2 (Einstein), things “must be sung,” “sing themselves” (Emerson), then a) you are alive, b) you are everything, c) you are a song. We’re all in this together, like penguins and bats, singing our song, to find our way along, know how we belong to each other and this earth. Is your world singing and ringing? Are you? To a tree, and all things, YOU are indispensable, the song, the singer, and I’m talking to you, O listener for whom I have cast a pod, who has slowed down for the Poetry Slow Down, to consider poetry in our lives, in our every day. It turns out your mother loved it, your father wrote it, your friend frames it, and your colleague memorizes it. Who knew? You thought it was just you, this eccentric resonance with the oddly stated, quirkly reasoned, dapper and dappled language, put into girdles and tuxes, plaid flannel bathrobes, hooded, buttoned, stressed, pressed, wrested, strangling, wrangled, oddly fitting, evocative, provocative, word play that, frankly, for the world at least, is life and death. Poetry? Poetry! And herein lies an answer to that question fretting you all morning: I know how trees matter to me (let me count the ways); but do I, how can I, matter to them, or for that matter, to our world? And you’re not alone. In your existential crisis, you’re with your Poetry Slow Down, our program laying out the case for the need for humans on earth. We’ve been guilting ourselves lately, our roles in climate change, pollution, species extinction, and so we know we matter in a catastrophic way. But let us consider how we also matter in a redeeming, lifesaving way, a way on which the world depends, and perhaps for which we were brain-wired, purposed. Hear hear! We’ll hear Mary Oliver, Marianne Moore, John Muir, singing, and for things that must be sung, about David Milarch’s Archangel Ancient Trees, and Melbourne’s email trees civic project, and more. Our PoetrySlowDown, the news feed you need, the news you heed, the news “without with men die miserably every day.” #poetrynowmorethanever #savedbypoem And if you hear the wind in the willows, that’s the trees cheering for you, your inner poet, to think on them through the poetic lens. I’m your host, Professor Barbara Mossberg, and we’re produced by Zappa-that-Zappa Johns.
© Barbara Mossberg 2018
You’re under the weather, my friend, feeling stressed and blue! Dr. B has a potion that will do: It’s light as a feather, word flour and fat, called for when the world seems sour and flat! Just when you’re going to fall on your face, Rumi’s people run in with stretchers of grace, talking about a mighty kindness, and Wendell Berry is right there with a flighty mindfulness. You may be able to tell, evolved listener as you are, I’ve been reading Dr. Suess, beloved inspirational star, and the rhymes are coming in fast and loose. But like all dishes we need, a little of that and this, we’re stirring in Dante (in dark days in the middle of our lives), and Cavafy (who says embrace the strife and hives). And more rich fare to air, and that is only part of what’s in store, in our toolbox, our toolkit, our wheelhouse galore, a pantry of angst whisperer and poetic roar. It’s the news feed you need, the news you heed, the news without which “men die miserably every day” (William Carlos Williams), our POETRY SLOW DOWN, with your host Professor Barbara Mossberg (aka Dr. B) and Producer Zappa (that Zappa) Johns, at barbaramossberg.com, live from Eugene, Oregon and California’s Central Coast, with notes of east coast lake district and college riverbank towns, Texas hill country watering holes, Los Angeles plains and mountain lakes, Colorado peak towns where poetry thrives. We have questions for you on our show today, and you can send them our way at firstname.lastname@example.org, or Barbara.email@example.com. You’ll receive—and you can write to request– our I SLOW DOWN FOR THE POETRY SLOW DOWN or NO PLACE SAFE FROM POETRY bumper sticker, because you do, and inhabit that space where poetry is welcome. And on that note, I’m grateful to you, who hear this hum, to your ear, to your being here.
(A GOOD LOOK IN SHIRTS, NOT SO MUCH ON YOUR COMPUTER), AND DAYS ARE DARK, AND THE NEWS IS FRIGHTFUL, IT’S TIME TO LET GO THE NEWS FEED FOR THE NEWS YOU NEED: POETRY! YOU NEED TO GET OUT YOUR DANTE, WHEN YOU’RE FEELING DAUNTED, AND SEE YOUR NOBLE SELF EMERGE . . . AND WE’LL HEAR WHAT YOUTHS IN THE CLARK HONORS COLLEGE OF THE UNIVERSITY OF OREGON ON THE THRESHOLD OF THE MIDDLE OF THEIR LIVES DID WITH THEIR VERSIONS OF BEING IN HELL ON EARTH . . . WE’LL HEAR IDEAS FOR HOW TO GET BACK ON TRACK IN YOUR LIFE WITH YOUR OWN VIRGILS, POETS WHO DO RESCUES OF US HUMANS, GEN-I-US-ES WHO LEAD US UP MOUNTAINS IN MORNING LIGHT . . . And this includes poets of morning and light and mountains, so slow down, and be ready for Thoreau, John Muir, Rumi, Mary Oliver, Kay Ryan, Gary Snyder, Emily Dickinson, Marianne Moore, Wendell Berry. Brian Doyle!
Dr. Mossberg was recently a guest on Emerald Media’s recent Spotlight on Science episode. Listen at the below, or on Emerald Media’s podcast app feed.