Press release: “Here for the Present: A Grammar of Happiness in the Present Perfect, Live from the Poet’s Perch”

For Immediate Release

Publicity Contact: Wendy Brickman

(831) 594-1500 or Brickman@BrickmanMarketing.com

Dr. Barbara Mossberg’s new book is a gift for all of us: “Here for the Present: A Grammar of Happiness in the Present Perfect, Live from the Poet’s Perch”

July 2021. Pacific Grove, CA. Dr. Barbara Mossberg has channeled her inner Thoreau in a timely and timeless new book, a comic Walden. In times that seem humanity’s new dark ages of uncertain and catastrophic climate and politics and disease—an imperfect present, Here for the Present: A Grammar of Happiness in the Present Imperfect, Live from the Poet’s Perch, is a perfect present for all of us. Internationally known as an inspirational speaker and cultural representative, she is local as an artichoke, particular to place as a Monarch, a troubadour singing of sidewalks and gulls and rain, forgiving and loving wildly her own and all of our worlds through a poet’ eye. 

A California laureate, Pacific Grove’s own Poet in Residence provides us a gift– a way to see our lives and space as a present. celebrating how a poet can transform what we think of as wasted time and space into treasure and infinite moment. PG and books themselves come alive as precious to us, in how we live and forgive our world. 

From her “Poet’s Perch,” we see what is hilarious, holy, and precious in the most usual, overlooked, unthought about, and even hard things. In flash memoir and poignant vignettes, Dr. Mossberg washes the dishes, imagines John Muir naked in a sauna, encounters bear terror, walks down the street and smells the roses, looks out the window on a rainy day, waits for a grocery to open, reads the local papers and finds her own epic story in the comic and doleful antics of her neighbors, visits her mother in hospice, comforts her child, “raises the dead,” and imagines herself a lady Thoreau while drinking PBR. The result is a wildly unique and profound vision—what reviewers call “rollicking grace”–celebrating the moments we fear, regret, or don’t even notice. 

An utterly unique voice, Dr. Mossberg draws from her experience over fifty years in roles ranging from actor, dramaturg, radio host, playwright, keynote speaker, cultural diplomat. A prizewinning literary scholar and teacher of epic literature and drama, Mossberg comes at experience with a lyric sweep and dash. But she’s also a performer, including of her own work, and the result is a wry, poignant comedian’s stand up and ballad. It’s a humble, funny voice we trust, a vision we need when the world seems scary and sad, and our lives uncertain and short. An Rx for the here and now, this book wraps and reveals experience as a gift.  

This book can change the way we appreciate what Dr. Mossberg calls the gift in being in the here and now— “the present.” In her imaginative creativity, great philosophical strength in life and death issues is seen as moments become momentous, trash becomes treasure, and gratitude for what we experience “is the least we can do” to embrace and honor consciousness. In Mossberg’s exuberant and rambunctious vision, combining magical realism and a dramatic poet’s voice, happiness is at hand in even an imperfect world. 

Mossberg explains: “When I was appointed Poet in Residence for the City of Pacific Grove, CA, I had to think: what does it mean to be “in residence?”—here?” What does a poet do with this experience? What do poets do and why and how can they matter, to a city, no less? I thought of Beverly Cleary’s Ramona the Pest. SO, Ramona aka the Pest, age 4, arrives for her first day of kindergarten, and her teacher tells her to “sit here for the present.” She’s delighted—she’s looked forward to school so long! She’s here at last and also there’s a present! But the day goes on without one and the teacher asks why she’s glued to her chair. For the present! she says. Alas—when told that means, for now, just temporarily– and yes, no present, sorry–she thinks school is not going to be all it was cracked up to be. 

So here we are, you and I, in this life—the here and now. My book is called Here for the Present, and it takes up this challenge of ours—living a life that is not only so imperfect, but will end. How can that be good—much less, a gift? I thought Ramona’s idea of being “here for the present” was just perfect. We are here just for now. How can we make our presence, our being present in the now, a present? There’s a grammar term, “the present imperfect,” something ongoing—that’s us—in this imperfect mess, this chaos– for now. How could I serve as a poet to give Ramona, in residence in her chair, a gift? How can we all be here for the present? As a Poet in Residence, I see my opportunity to show how we each are “poets in residence” on earth. I am striving to give to my community a way to find comfort and joy in daily experience.

In this “grammar of happiness in the present imperfect,” I strive to find consciousness of the present moment as a gift. Imperfect, yes—and strange and precious and hilarious and holy. I share with you my own wildly imperfect moments, naked and arrayed in pearls in hospice, as a poet in residence on this earth of ours. I’m walking down your streets, looking at you out my window of Poet’s Perch, dazzled, dazed, awestruck, grateful. In your eyes, as I imagine you with me on this journey, our time here is a gift. Here. Thank you for reading it and being with me–the gift of you!”

Kim Stafford, Oregon Poet Laureate 2018-2020, and author of Singer Come from Afar, comments about the book, “It has been said that Thoreau wrote not so much for his own time as for our own. His messages of simplicity, spiritual economy, and connection to the wild may serve us well in our present lives of crisis. We are fortunate that a voice in many ways heir to Thoreau and his message has composed this book, her own Walden in observation, meditation, exhortation, and companionable poem of invitation and praise. Singing lustily from her perch, Barbara Mossberg here offers myriad bold thoughts, musical hints, and resonant poems that call us to wake, wonder, and work for the better world within our grasp. May these empowered musings take residence in your heart and mind. Dip your cup here, drink deep, and be refreshed.”

As songwriter Paul Simon has eloquently stated in his song, ‘The 59th Street Bridge Song’, “Slow down, you move too fast. You got to make the morning last”, on which Dr. Mossberg bases her weekly hour radio podcast, The Poetry Slowdown (Barbaramossberg.com). Dr. Mossberg’s book will motivate its readers to do just that, enjoy life in a perpetual morning of joy and appreciation for the day. 

About Dr. Barbara Mossberg:

Professor Mossberg’s distinguished career of four decades as a prizewinning poet, author, and teacher, and honored educational leader, to promote the transformational role of poetry in people’s lives. President Emerita Goddard College, founding Dean California State University Monterey Bay, Professor of Practice at Clark Honors College, University of Oregon, and American Council on Education Senior Fellow, she has been recognized by National Endowment for the Humanities, American Council of Learned Societies, Mellon Foundation (Aspen Institute) and others, twice awarded the Senior Fulbright Distinguished Lecturer, and a Fulbright Specialist. Committed to arts activism in the public sphere, she created and hosts the weekly hour Poetry Slow Down (podcast Barbaramossberg.com), and publishes in journals, newspapers, Huffington Post columns, restaurant reviewer, books (Emily Dickinson: When a Writer Is a Daughter was named Choice Outstanding Academic Book of the Year; Sometimes the Woman in the Mirror Is Not You and other hopeful news postings was chosen for Dublin Writers Abroad), keynotes, organizes lit crawls, poetry slams, civic celebrations, and arts fundraisers, and serves boards for the environment, education, drama, and the arts. Her roles as scholar, writer, and poet “in residence,” include her federal appointment as U.S. Scholar in Residence for U.S.I.A., representing American letters in over twenty countries, Writer in Residence at Thoreau’s Birthplace in Concord, MA., and Pacific Grove’s California laureate Poet in Residence at the Poet’s Perch, for which she says, “Pinch me.”

For more information, go to http://www.barbaramossberg.com/?page_id=2

About the book:

Here for the Present: A Grammar of Happiness in the Present Perfect, Live from the Poet’s Perch 

Print length: 188 pages

Language: English

Publication date: June 4, 2021

Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.48 x 8.5 inches

ISBN-10: 1953120148

ISBN-13: 978-1953120144

Published: Pacific Grove Books

Available on Amazon, Ingram Spark, Barnes and Noble and other book distributors and retailers. 

A Donation is made to the Pacific Grove Library for every book sold.

What would Rumi do—and say?—Finding the rhyme in your day—and Other Ways to SLOW DOWN for Pete’s Sakes and All That’s at Stake! (After our show today, when people say, how did you spend this hour, you can say, oh, I slowed down rhyming with a whale.) (And Rumi would say, And that’s a good thing! And with a horse!)

First of all, welcome to our PoetrySlowDown—you’re slowing down with me, Professor Mossberg, aka Dr. B, with our Producer Zappa Johns, and the idea for the show is from Simon and Garfunkle’s 59th Street Bridge Song—slow down, you move too fast, you’ve got to make the morning last. This show began as AM Talk Radio on 540AM, KRXA, and people called in from all over the U.S. and from several countries, and it was very ironic—it was at noon, and so I thought that we would make the morning last, literally, by slowing down with poetry . . . There was news “at the top of the hour,” and I thought of time that way, as a shape, as a space, as a ball, and it was 54 minutes in diameter, although in my head it was an hour. I had three breaks for commercials, and it had to be exactly scheduled. So here I was, providing a time and place for people to slow down in their daily lives, and make the morning last, literally, and metaphorically for those on the east coast and Midwest and overseas, and I was hurrying, panting, a mile-a-minute trying to fit all the words in by the time it would go silent and the news, the late-breaking, heartbreaking news go on, eclipsing our heart-shaking news WITHOUT WHICH MEN DIE MISERABLY EVERY DAY (William Carlos Williams), so it was kind of paradoxical. Slowing down at breakneck speed. It was funny, too, because Paul Simon’s lyrics about slowing down were specifically about being a poet, engaging with the world that way: Hello, lamppost, whatcha knowin? I’ve come to watch your flowers growin, ain’t ya got no rhymes for me . . . So he’s looking around his world, totally relaxed and chill, counting on rhymes, on the prowl and amble for poetry around every corner. 

I was thinking about rhymes . . . they are sort of a miracle! How words that seemingly have nothing to do with each other sound alike, and thus call each other to mind—as if they are actually connected. And so the brain thereby connects them. And each carries a meaning, something we can visualize–an object, an experience, a feeling, an idea, and to see such words rhyme, we instantly are connecting them, seeing how they relate. I was just reciting e.e. cummings’ “i thank You God for this amazing” for my eco literature class, and by saying it out loud, you apprehend rhymes you might not notice by sight on the page. I’ll say it for us, since it is definitely a New Years’ Poem, a new day, new decade, new life, waking up poem. 

Since it’s a sonnet, it has a formal rhyme scheme; every other line’s last word rhymes, in theory . . . thus, we have amazing and everything; trees and yes; earth and birth; day and gay; no and You; awake and, and opened. These rhymes make us understand the message, cummings’ gospel, that everything is amazing. This is a fairly not subversive, but radical proposition for the mind: a human responsibility to experience wonder, awe, reverence, astonishment, without boundaries, unconditionally. The final couplet almost gets by us: awake and/opened. It took me a few years to notice this, reading it and reciting it. I know! And so you think how brilliant, how clever cummings is, in his physics ministry, to make us get this connection between being awake and opened, in the sense of Henry David Thoreau and Diane Ackerman’s A Natural History of the Senses–do you know this book? She has a slew of books on the neuroscience of consciousness from the point of view of poetry—she is as lyric as they come—a Pablo Neruda—a sensual visualist; she is earthy, she smacks of earth-smells, of moss and rain and honeysuckle; she is intense—and her point is that if we open ourselves to our world, we experience the beauty, the reverence.

We hear Dolly Parton’s song, sung with Willie Nelson, “Everything Is Beautiful In Its Own Way.” 

And there is a method I am learning from an artist at the University of Madrid, Rosalinda Ruiz-Scarfuto, the Flaneur method, which publisher and earth celebrator/plant genius Patricia Hamilton of Park Place Publications has been talking to me about, and I will be sharing this with you, this intersection of poetry and art and consciousness in our world, in which we walk more consciously if we touch, just as Ackerman asks us to look and sniff and touch and taste—and I have a slew of poems on this to share with you today, on a lemon and bear and whale and fox and fish and moose and crab, by people who walk through this world awake—Pablo Neruda, Galway Kinnell, Elizabeth Bishop, Ted Hughes, D.H. Lawrence, Mark Doty . . . who tell someone about it in the way Mary Oliver gives “Instructions for Life: Pay Attention. Be astonished. Tell about it.” 

It is a kind of revelation that rhyme provides us, a revealing of the inner workings and outer manifestations of our world, of how things connect. Einstein is a poet when he says e=mc2. Poets have their hand on the pulse of this mystery of the world, exploring the meanings of how things connect: Only connect, says E.M. Forster. Live in fragments no longer.
― E.M. Forster, Howards End

It’s so mysterious, how words rhyme, how sounds connect us . . . and make us see, and hear, what’s there. The sound of words and how we put them together can add up to insights . . . and rhymes can be at the end of the line, like roses are red, violets are blue, sugar is sweet, and so are you . . .or they can be slant, as we hear in e.e. cummings, or Emily Dickinson (“a little madness in the spring”), or internal rhymes, like Dolly Parton’s, and I found myself working with this in a poem in which I was writing about a difficult subject, my mother’s failing health, her misery in an assisted living center hardly able to walk or eat or speak, and it was a what-do-you-wear-to-your-mother’s-bedside poem, but somehow, rhyme became important:

After Pindar, Bon Chic Bon Genre: Ode to My BCBG Holy Inappropriate Dress

First, the strophic dress TURN Then me the antistrophe TURN Then you tell me. 

It was on sale. Shopping with my teen-aged daughter. MOM! It’s two layers, almost see-through. Beneath is flesh-colored gauze—sewn into the bodice, and then flows free from the neck and arm seams. That’s it! That’s what’s going on with this dress—Free. Flow. The top is bright soft red with white flowers. It is so transparent, so skimpy, so flimsy: like a cloud manifests, weightless, this dress flutters when I turn as if there is a breeze. It has its own weather system, eddies of wind, currents, squalls as I move, or even breathe. Even the sleeves, little flaps, bunched at the shoulder, then draping down, fluted— the whole thing loose, wavy, rippling, the V-neck gathered, edged with ripples. Ladies, you know, help me out here. Then the empire waist, ruffles, that’s it: ruffles, all along my bodice, then, a ribbon sloping down into a bow; material so light, so translucent, so fluttery, it rides my curves lightly; and the dress descends, loosely, to a ten-inch ruffle, bordered by more tiny ruffles. So you’ve got the dress, and now you’re thinking of me, what, am I four? Or, nine? Or Audrey Hepburn at sixteen, or Maria from Sound of Music? I’m dating myself here. I’ve turned sixty. So they say. My arms: you know orangutans, the scope and heft of their feathered arms, enormous, hang prodigiously. Now think of flesh: soft white floppy, arms so heavy with soft flesh they dangle when I walk. My breasts are hanging, too, filling nicely a 34-G, and they sway; you’ve seen me and dismissed me as a comic turn in a thousand films, the stout giggling aunt in the background, shaking to the music.  My belly sags and sways. My jowls, you see gravity at work, erosion, fault lines exposed. Aging’s geology. 

So now, you have me turning, counter-turning. Now the epode. 

Why? Why do I wear this dress? Well isn’t it obvious? I wore it in Rome, and the children rolled their eyes to one another, and gave advice on how to wear the bow, my husband shook his head without shaking it. I peed in the plaza (they fled)—Okay! It happens! But the stains came out nicely. And I wear it today, with pearls, to visit my mother, in her outpost in the assisted living place, where we have hired twenty-four seven care since her two falls and perhaps one stroke three weeks ago. She has not spoken since. Last night I lay my hand on her trembling hand. Together like that, they looked so similar—hers a little more wrinkly—a few more brown spots– red from cumedin bruising, my own hand in twenty-eight years–twenty-eight years which once seemed enormous— my mother of such size and heft to me, now a flutter in time—a ruffle, ripples on the surface, like stone dropped in pond, her ripples becoming my wrinkles, as pond absorbs our energy. Eighty-eight does not seem so far, and twenty-eight years a heartbeat, this morning at her bed with the rails we installed last week, so she doesn’t fall out and hit her head—hospice, which she does not know about, or she does, and none of us knows, either, how something like this is read. Is it clear to you this is my perkiest dress, so light it flutters when I walk—you would swear I was in the Carpenteria afternoon breeze; if it had any more ruffles I would fly; I am a flag of some weightless nation, like a cloud manifests. My arms are bare. I flutter, and flap, and sag. It is so light. It billows and sways and caresses each curve. I have plans for tonight— freedom and hope and time to finesse. I kiss her goodbye. She speaks: you. look. pretty. That’s why. I wear this dress to face, face to face, heaviness, all gravity’s laws, weighted with sorrow, and loss, and fear, in hospice, I bear it, I wear it, this buoyant excess, this innocence. Good style, good class: tell me it’s an inappropriate dress.

c Barbara Mossberg 2018 (New Millennium Writings)

I wonder if when we meet each other, and connect in some chemical mysterious way, if that is a rhyme–if we realize that we rhyme with each other, in obvious ways, and in internal ways . . .if nature rhymes in its shapes and patterns and forms . . . if rhyme is a way that nature speaks . . . .

The slew of poems I have for us actually don’t have many obvious rhymes, by some coincidence . . . yet key concepts are rhymed for impact; in looking at our world and connecting to its creatures; I think they rhyme the human heart with the soul of earth creatures the poet is connecting us to . . . 

After our show today, when people say, how did you spend this hour, you can say, oh, I slowed down rhyming with a whale

But I have taken us on a detour down a rabbit hole, today, because today’s show is built around the theme of recent books, What Would Alice Do?, and the great Alain de Botton’s How Proust Can Change Your Life—the idea that we can learn practical things for our most quotidian challenges of life from ponderous, pondering, curious, and remarkable literature, that people think has nothing to do with our actual lives. I thought of this, speaking of our actual lives, sitting in my kitchen nook, with a book, What Would Alice Do? Extracting the wisdom of Alice, I was thinking about our show, drinking coffee, surrounded by books, and I noticed that the books I have there DO NOT RYHME, that is, they do not seem to get along, much less have to do with the kitchen. Well, of course there is The Joy of Cooking, but next to it is Emily Dickinson, and then Anthony Bourdain, and I was thinking, oh I shouldn’t have them even next to each other, but then I realized Emily can take care of herself with the likes of Bourdain– they are equally lusty about earthly pleasures, whether oysters or puddings, and then I have books on chaos and cosmology, and Eugenides, his brilliant Middlesex—and Lucille Clifton, and books by my friends:  it frankly is a hodgepodge. No one belongs. No one gets along. It is the opposite of rhyme. Yet it is my kitchen nook booky companions I take up when I drink coffee, or water in a wine bottle I keep there because the label says Merry and Kind, I love that. So on the topic of what would Alice do? Just like How Proust Can Change Your Life by Alain de Botton, or the Tao of Pooh, these works that extract the wisdom of a poet and translate it into a practical how to, to do, for the affairs and difficulties of our lives, the etiquette, the manners, of as Joseph Conrad said, how to be. So I thought I would try this as an experiment with Pablo Neruda, whose lemon poem I read as an example of his spirit rhyming with earth.

Well, I am not sure: what would Neruda do? He would slice that lemon, for sure . . . and he would be enthralled. What about Rumi? This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!

Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.
Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.


— Jellaludin Rumi,

So here is our chance to know What Would Rumi Say? WWRS? What Would Rumi Do? WWRD?

First, the doorbell rings. We should answer it, for sure. The people outside look strange and even—dangerous. But we should let them in. Yes, they may be robbing the house, sweeping us clean, but that is a good thing! That is what Rumi would do! He would say, bring it on! 

Dear Mr. Rumi, I have been having very distressing thoughts lately. It is hard to get out of bed.

Dear Distressed:  laugh, and welcome them. This could be a good thing. 

It may seem, dear Listener of our Poetry Slow Down, that invoking Rumi for hard times, with his bring-it-on, welcome it in, philosophy, is not that practical, because unlike Rumi, who lived in the 1200s, our world today is challenging beyond his imagination. But consider: Rumi was born on September 30, 1207, present-day Afghanistan. His family had to flee the massacre of Genghis Khan’s army all the way to southern Turkey. Despite the violence surrounding him, Rumi was a poet of compassion, kindness, faith, spiritual insight and enlightened living. He did not write about military revenge or political power, but advocated love.

In 1244 AD he came across a wandering dervish named Shamsuddin of Tabriz. Shamsuddin and Rumi were friends. Shams Rumi expressed his love for Shamsuddin.  After Shams died, had great grief; out of that pain he wrote nearly 70,000 verses of poetry—and music and dance.  What we really can learn from Rumi is how to manage grief: write 70,000 poems. Dance. Promote love and gratitude. “The horse of love has brought us here from a grand Mystery.” “Plant seeds of compassion in this pure land,” he urges us. 

It seems the message is that love and forgiveness saves the day: it turns out that Einstein practices, WWRD? What would Rumi do? But that is for another podcast, if e=mc2, what then, and what does love have to do with it? You have slowed down with the Poetry Slow Down, and I’m thanking the Eugene Team, Ashley Kim, the Oak Knoll Team and sound engineer set up Nico Moss, our producer Zappa Johns, our Engineer O. Really, the Pacific Grove Poetry Collective, Park Place Publications with Patricia Hamilton, and Rosalinda Ruiz-Scarfuto, for the Flaneur methodology which is coming to us soon, and I’m your host, Professor Barbara Mossberg, Dr. B, and you’ve been slowing down—you know you move too fast . . . you’ve been rhyming!

What is in your kitchen bookshelf? Let’s noodle that . . . Write me at Barbara.mossberg@gmail.com, and I remain yours truly, with the news you need, the news you need, the news without which men die miserably every day! Not you, not you . . . thank you for joining me on this life journey! We definitely rhyme! 

© Barbara Mossberg 2020

Elation Equation: “And We Shall Be A Mighty Kindness” (Rumi)—or, e=mc² Explained–A Special Theory of Relativity

As we consider Emerson (whom the late Harold Bloom called “God”) and Einstein, and Astra theology, and what is known about the universe in ancient and emergent minds, considering human and civil rights,  peace, and the environment (Peace! Love! Freedom! Happiness!) in which we hear (Hear! Hear!) from Listen, John Steinbeck, Rumi, John Lennon, Elvis, and “Hair,” as well as Leonard Bernstein, as well as Ian Chillag’s Radiotopia’s “Everything is Alive.” And more—thoughts with the University of Oregon’s Insight Seminar and Clark Honors College’s “Thinking Like the Sun: Travel in Ancient and Emergent Minds.” This is Professor Barbara Mossberg with our Producer Zappa Johns. 

Who understands e=mc2? It takes a genius, right? Do we think genius is beyond us? That genius is Einstein maybe, but not you? Do we think Einstein is in his own orbit, far removed from us? We may think knowledge of the world is far from what we can grasp in our everyday life–and thus let it go as an intellectual luxury we cannot afford, and turn back to our daily reality, the shoelace and the biscuit, the diagnosis, the wine, the tomato harvested from the garden. Love—worry, trying so hard to do the right thing—these are our joys and work. And as for Emerson, well, is he just impossible to understand to the point of irrelevance?

“My heart rouses thinking to bring you news of something that concerns you and concerns many men. Look at what passes for the new. You will not find it there but in despised poems. It is difficult to get the news from poems yet men die miserably every day for lack of what is found there.”

William Carlos Williams gives both a diagnosis and Rx in poetry, as difficult and despised as it may be. Together with the idea of irrelevance to our stressed responsible lives, these ideas of literature, and genius as something we don’t have to worry about, are contested and exuberantly and earnestly interrogated by two of the greatest minds of the 19thand 20thcenturies, who sought to convince us that WE are what the doctor ordered. In fact, that we are geniuses the world needs now. And they are going to define just what they think this means, as wise, enlightened citizenry. 

© Barbara Mossberg 2019

ELATION EQUATION: “And We Shall Be A Mighty Kindness” —or, e=mc² Explained, A Special Theory of Relativity

Who understands e=mc²? It takes a genius, right? Do we think genius is beyond us? That genius is Einstein maybe, but not you? Do we think Einstein is in his own orbit, far removed from us? We may think knowledge of the world is far from what we can grasp in our everyday life–and thus let it go as an intellectual luxury we cannot afford, and turn back to our daily reality, the shoelace and the biscuit, the diagnosis, the wine, the tomato harvested from the garden. Love—worry, trying so hard to do the right thing—these are our joys and work. And as for Emerson, well, is he just impossible to understand to the point of irrelevance?

© Barbara Mossberg 2019