That’s the Spirit! Essential Attitude: In Honor of Inaugurating a Poet Laureate, W.S. Merwin, broadcast from the hospital bedside vigil of my mother, age 90, who “wants to sleep” but just winked at me:

Robert Frost, in his poem October, beginning the hours of this day slowly, making the morning last, as Poet Paul Simon says on our show’s signature song, to Frost’s “make the day to us less brief,” his slow! Slow! savoring this October morning—it’s still mild October morning in Hawaii, on the Maui gardens where W.S. Merwin is restoring rare and endangered palms of the original rainforest, and so we are thinking of Merwin, preparing to leave for Washington, D.C. for his inaugural reading tomorrow as Poet Laureate of the Library of Congress, and I’ll be there for us to cheer wildly and greenly mildly and s-l-o-w-l-y and will give your greetings from the Poetry Slow Down, we hear you Mr. Frost, I’m Professor Barbara Mossberg, for KRXA 540AM, and you, you are this remarkable national poetry community, this gathering of Yes, of Up-ness, of conscience and civility and passion, I love your emails to me at, and you can still write me greetings to Mr. Merwin to deliver tomorrow, and I’m going to deliver an invitation for him to speak to Restore Hetch Hetchy, since he’s going inch by inch, row by grow, making his garden grow, restoring earth, resurrection work, what I call redemption engineering, and you can hear about poetry and gardens and Mr. Merwin in our past shows on our podcast, by Sara Hughes, just go to And here we go . . . 

When I consider how my light is spent, John Milton, On His Blindness—probably dictated, and possibly to Andrew Marvell, whose rejoinder, Had we but world enough, and time, ends, though we cannot make our sun 
Stand still, yet we will make him run. Then another fan of Milton, who wrote in London, 1802, Milton, get your sorry self back here, England needs your spirit! From Wordsworth’s sonnet, The world is too much with us; late and soon, Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers:

Epigraphs from John Milton and Andrew Marvell and William Wordsworth, for a Poetry Slow Down series in which we consider lifesaving, life-thriving poetic philosophies of life, considering how our time is spent, and the question of how to be: poets weighing in on essential stance and perspectives forming an honor company of companions—an honor poetry guard– to W.S. Merwin our new Poet Laureate–think Thoreau (he invented attitude), Emerson (he grandfathered it), Joseph Conrad, Shakespeare, Robert Frost, Emily Dickinson, William Carlos Williams, Nikki Giovanni, Horace, Wallace Stegner, Mark Twain, J.D. Salinger, Ric Masten, Dylan Thomas. For genius of how to live, we will consider the narrative perspectives of a dog (Garth Stein’s The Art of Racing in the Rain), a Yogi Bear, a spider (E.B. White’s Charlotte’s Web), a pest (four-year old Beverly Cleary’s Ramona) channeled through the poet; and how the birds and bees do it, the flowers and trees, in the metaphor of life as a garden (and the role of weeds and wilderness), with Gerard Manley Hopkins, Theodore Roethke, Stanley Kunitz, T.S. Eliot, Wordsworth, and more, on The Poetry Slow Down, with me, Professor Barbara Mossberg, for KRXA 540AM, and our production team, Hal Ginsberg, and Sara Hughes, who also brings you our podcast and website, at Listen to the poets: you know you move too fast; consider how our time is spent! And on this theme of spending wisely, how do we spend not only our time but our monies? So we begin the series today, honoring the inaugural reading tomorrow of our newest Poet Laureate at the Library of Congress, in Washington, D.C., at the Thomas Jefferson Building—because it was Jefferson who began it all, donating his own library to Congress as the foundation for our nation’s library, because how can we be a smart, good, surviving country without books?—and because in two days we go to the polls, and in my new hometown, Pacific Grove, with its Poet in Residence in The Poet’s Perch of 1892, a city that puts poetry in its civic mission, the day after the Poet Laureate Inaugural Reading, there’s a vote on a tax to keep our library going—Measure Q—a yes vote keeps it going–so my inaugural lecture as Poet in Residence last week was for the library, at the library, about what’s at stake in keeping a library open. Therefore on this Frostian mild October day I will reprise with you some of this talk, called, “The Power of the Butterfly: How Books Can Change the World One Nobody At A Time,” and Poetry Slow Down, I won’t lie to you, the hero of this story is poetry. And my mother right here, she nods. So it’s dedicated to you, mommy—who brought me up in the library and made of our home a library—she nods. So on the nod of yes, here’s how the talk started, and she won’t be surprised, and neither will you . . . (think, “yes”)

We’ve Got To Get Ourselves Back to the Garden, say the poets

In which we consider the relationship between gardening and poetry from earliest times, as poets wipe soil from their hands to pen their thoughts on the inextricable connections between the act of creating and co-creating Truth and Beauty out of earthly experience, between what is sown and grown and pruned and tended, between mortal and immortal beauty. We’ll hear from Horace, of course, Shakespeare, hear hear!, Thoreau, he’ll crow, Emily Dickinson, and her twin one, Gerard Manley Hopkins, and speaking of kin, W.S. Merwin, Theodore Roetkhe, not to mention Charles Tripi, James Wright, so right, Mary Oliver, we love her, Pablo Neruda, our own time’s Buddha, Gerard Stern, it’s his turn, Yeats’ one of the greats, Stanley Kunitz, his tune is my bliss, and more (think C.K. Williams, Andrew Hudgins, and!). We’ll hear how some poets become activists in plant restoration movements, and we’ll revisit the Restore Hetch Hetchy movement to restore what John Muir, a flower viewer, called one the grandest landscape gardens ever consecrated on earth, for an update of its progress in rescuing this original garden from its spell of being a drowned valley, and redeeming us all. I even wrote a poem for this occasion called Redemption Engineering, about garden restoration, and we’ll hear about a book called Defiant Gardens by Kenny Helphand, and we’ll think about Voltaire and what he meant when his foolish Pangloss, the hopeless optimist, said, “cultivate your own garden,” and what Joni Mitchell meant in Woodstock’s, we’ve got to get ourselves back to the Garden. Yes, I know, there’s a Garden of Eden, and lots of poetry on that topic. So don your floppy garden hat, you know it’s a good look, put down your trowel, and let’s begin the Poetry Slow Down, I’m your host Professor Barbara Mossberg, for KRXA 540AM, with Hal Ginsberg, and Producer Sara Hughes.

Life, I Insist!

Life, I Insist! It’s Autumn, and we’re in the mood. Change is in the air, and what does the universe portend? We hear from poet gardeners who see poetry and gardening inextricably connected, gardeners writing in their eighties and nineties, Stanley Kunitz (“he loved the earth so much he wanted to stay forever”), W.S. Merwin (Happy Birthday, and we’re coming to your inauguration as Poet Laureate!, with poems from the Poetry Slow Down community), and Gerard Sterns (including the tour de force “Grapefruit”); and from twenty-five poets taking it slow, facing and embracing all that autumn means for us, life and death, celebrating vividness, change and transformation. We hear from the Academy of American Poets Poem A Day Scott Hightower, and poems by Jennifer Boully, Richard Garcia, Edward Hirsch, James Hoch, Margaret Gibson, Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Deborah Diggs, Kabir, Shakespeare, A.R. Ammons, Lucille Clifton, James Galvin, Li-Young Lee, Mark Strand, William Blake, Robert Frost, Amy King, Baudelaire, and your Dr. B on “The Improbability of Orange,” all October poems. Let’s end with this from Kunitz at 100, writing a poem, “I can scarcely wait til tomorrow, when a new life begins for me, as it does each day, as it does each day.” Music by Gershwin, Willie Nelson, Bob Dylan, and Van Morrison. Yours sincerely, Poetry Slow Down Host Professor Barbara Mossberg, and Producers Hal Ginsberg and Sara Hughes. c Barbara Mossberg 2010