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?
Let us consider poetry as necessary for life as soil. Just because nutritious soil is necessary to life, all our lives on earth, does not mean it is not downright miraculous. A little clay here, rock there, dust, remains, odds and ends of minerals, a hodgepodge of organic and inorganic grow beanstalks for giants. And so poetry, remarkable makings of new life and old life, what is mud and what shines, the quotidian reality revealed as utterly remarkable. It turns out nursery rhymes are literal. People live in shoes. The dish runs away with the spoon. When we figure out dark energy, phantom energy, we’ll know this was right. We’ll know it is violin music that makes the chemicals in soil come to life, the spirit, God’s breath. As we consider harvest days, and pumpkins in the fields, it’s not the pumpkin spice we love in all the products now flavored with pumpkin, it’s the orange, the roundness we want, that we taste, it’s the goodness of its soil that makes the orange and the round, the remarkable of everything we see, everything we are. This is the dust of our minds, of our spirits, this not taking for granted what is here, this is the spin, the miracle of it.c Barbara Mossberg 2019
Food is on my mind, as you see, but on your mind as well. I know this, because you have written me about our “helpful banana bread” series on the poetry of food and hunger. So I’m in. This show does include an original recipe for pumpkin soup, so keep your pens handy—you remember pens—you remember hands—you remember hands—of course you do—you’re the POETRY SLOW DOWN, you’re evolved, you’re ancient wisdom on which so much depends, your ears are what the doctor ordered, the earth needs now: so HEAR’s the skinny (alas) on food from the point of view of your radio host, I’m your Professor Barbara Mossberg, aka Dr. B, produced by our faithful Zappa Johns, yes THAT Zappa, a West Coast commitment along the tectonic plates, and speaking of plates, and plating it, let’s begin, let’s gather at the table, for the Contents! The Tableof Contents! Ah, I get it, Dr. B! Of course you do—you’re the POETRY SLOW DOWN.
Poetry Slow Down, our episode this week begins a series wherein we embark on ancient ships and rocky land routes to engage with trees, as people have always done, and I mean always. Since recorded history, our first forays into writing down what’s in our human brains have been records of talks with trees. Gilgamesh, Greek mythology, the Bible, Mohammed, Pliny the Elder, Caesar, Tolkien, King Arthur, Shakespeare, Alice Walker: the list is long, surprising, star-studded, and global. Now science is saying that trees do talk (for example, Peter Wohlleben, The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Fell, How They Communicate,a bestseller in many countries—and his wife told him to write it, I’m just sayin). And Michael Pollan’s The Botany of Desire: A Plant’s-Eye View of the World, another best-seller. Yet poets have ever said so: how trees talk to us, not just to each other. We hear them in words. We hear them in poems. In our episode, we review the world over for the cases in which trees are recorded in history and literature of actually breaking into conversations, weeping when being left out, and needing to be consoled, and giving gritty and divine advice and healing love. We recall how in Steven Sondheim’s Into the WoodsCinderella “asks the tree” (whom her mother has become) for advice. In our next show, we’ll look at more of these stories about us talking to trees (Clint Eastwood “I Talk to the Trees”), and trees talking to us and what poets make of them, from Rilke and Alice Walker to John Muir and John Steinbeck, and the myths and religions that wrap around these events of tree-human relations. Then we’ll consider poets who wonder in what ways trees are human, and we are trees, and what happens to each of us when we’re cut down (Mars?). Trees, it seems, are inextricable from how we understand not only our human fate, but our actual humanity in the first place. Join me on this journey—you’ll be surprised (I am) and slowed down, way down—you know you move too fast!
Write me at Barbara.firstname.lastname@example.org for your own story of your encounter with a tree. What has a tree said to YOU? You’re not alone. We’ll all in this together!
As we celebrate Walt Whitman’s birthday, we consider how seriously as a poet he took joy (very). As it turns out, in fact, poets taking joy seriously is a thing. We’re slowing down today (you know you move too fast) to consider this phenomenon, and ferret out the gloom in June that besets us on this journey of ours. We’ll hear from bossy poets and obedient poets on taking joy seriously—Ralph Waldo Emerson, Emily Dickinson, e.e. cummings, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, W.B. Yeats, Charles Tripi, Mary Oliver, Shakespeare, Whitman, Brian Doyle. As our family says when we begin a trip, Hi ho! Let us go then, you and I, as T.S. Eliot said, let us arise and go then, as W.B. Yeats said, let’s go, says bc Mossberg, your joyful host today, with our Producer Zappa Johns, for the Poetry Slow Down–seriously joyful considering us seriously and our remarkable and necessary capacity for joy!
CONFESSIONS OF KILLER OF CATERPILLARS, HEADS UP TO DEER (AND OTHERS) AT RISK, BEING RAPT, RAPTORMANIA, RAPTURE, AND RIPARIAN ECSTASY YOU HAVE TIME FOR IF YOU SLOW DOWN: Poems and Lyric Prose “On Life” and Utterly Necessary Living, Life, and Death. This just in, #PoetrySlowDown#saveyourlifenow, fresh from saving my lavender from The Very Hungry Caterpillar (apologies to Eric Carle who just.doesn’t.know—or does ) with white oozy sticky caterpillar remains and output on my hands, fresh from killing mindfully the white foam-containing fanged monsters, to talk to you lyrically with great sensitivity and empathy about our world and why and how to love it, for all our sakes, yes, tis moi, and all I’m going to say about that is this: if you love a gardener, and you should, you are at great risk of hating bonafide elements of our world and harboring murderous thoughts, and by the way, you know, you know you know, give it up– it’s hopeless. But fear not, because in our show this week, we uplift ourselves with Shelley, no less, “On Life,” and “Mutability,” Patricia Hampl’s The Art of the Wasted Day(along with our essential Mary Oliver and James Wright), Brian Doyle’s riffs on life from How the Light Gets In (you otter listen, and I’m not just badgering you), Doriann Laux’s “Life is Beautiful” (each getting us all misty about creatures that make us crawl and yelp—oh, wait—they crawl and yelp, and we, we shudder, we look for weaponized brooms: what happens when you love a gardener (if you learn you hate creatures what then becomes of you?). Well, poetry helps us figure it out, this age-old crisis of conscience, of being on two opposing sides at once, but only if we take time out, slow down—you know you move too fast– to live right. It’s true, perhaps, people could judge you, think you’re wasting your time right now, listening to poetry and its gab, but there’s a lot of evidence that what we call wasting our timeand being unproductive is actually supremely practical in getting done what needs to get done in this life—like being rapt, amazed, astonished, awed, grateful, humble, at all we can see and feel. Our show’s abiding spirit, William Carlos Williams, who felt that “so much depends upon a red wheel barrow” glistening in the rain next to which white chickens—yep, that’s it, but he said poetry is news that’s life and death—we die miserably without it—that’s pretty down to earth and practical as survival Rx. The drama and trauma of a garden is only part of it: we’re in this world and we’re not alone
Never mind the headlines, there’s plenty of drama in the kitchen . . . it’s a lot. A play in the making about a daughter raising her mother from the dead, an act of which her mother approves, although not the means, which is poetry and gets you nowhere . . . . Our show considers a poet’s writing about her mother and ultimately making her mother immortal in the process, and the role poetry can play in days of headline news (there may come a day in newspapers’ demise when that is going to be a quaint expression, only metaphor—) (let it not be so!), with framing poems by Dorianne Laux and Shakespeare, and music from “Hair” and Carol King and Judy Collins and “Que Sera Sera.” So I’m sharing with you my poems about my mother, as a tribute program to Mother’s Day, and some day, I will share my poems about being a mother, and what that has to do with poetry! Are you listening because you love mothers or because you love poetry? I will try to honor both kinds of listening! May the 4thand every day be with you. Yours sincerely, Professor Mossberg, aka Dr. B