FELLOW MORTALS—Goats and Sheep, for a GOAT SONG: A Path Through Songs, Stories and Poems about Goats and Sheep, and Who Knew Where It Would Lead?

In fact it leads to heartwarming knowledge about our own humanity! And we need to hear this! Now! So we’ll slow down to take that windy path where goats go, lambs gambol. I’m your host Barbara Mossberg, with this ministry of sorts, to bring the words we use and think in and express love in and order coffee with, to appreciation of who we are, and what we’re doing on this life journey together on earth. We’re produced by Zappa Johns, who is on the Central Coast, and you, dear listener, are on a lake, on a ranch, in a loft, and we’re connected in this very moment by sound waves as in days of old, when we sat around campfires and told each other our stories.

Sheep, Goats, and Fellow Mortals

In our show today, as we slow down and savor texts that mean something encouraging in our lives, fire our conscience, light our consciousness about the gift of consciousness on this earth, we consider our age-old human love for sheep and goats—eating, yes, our Homer readers will remind us, but also as pets, and as fellow journey companions (think of the role of the shepherd in our human experience). In this lens, we will hear some of our greatest writers hold forth with compassion, with empathy, for what Robert Burns calls “our fellow mortals.” We’ll hear excerpts from John Muir’s “Stickeen,” one of the best dog (and glacier) stories ever written, and poetry of Mary Oliver, D.H. Lawrence, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Eugenio Del Andrade, Naomi Shihab Nye, Aaron Fogel, Robert Service, e.e. cummings, Jane Yolen, some folklore history, and two books out there that are companions to the great Gerald Durrell of My Family and Other Animalsfame, Carole George, The Lambs: My Father, a Farm, and the Gift of a Flock of Sheep, and Goat Songby Brad Kessler, books that started me on this goat path, and we end with Billy Collins, who reflects on the printing history alleging that one Gutenberg Bible requires 300 sheep skins. Yes, sheep skin—what we write on. It’s very complicated, this relationship we have with our fellow mortals (if we dare call them that after eating them and making them paper).

We begin with Barry Lopez’s “Everything is held together with stories. That is all that is holding us together, stories and compassion,” and reflect on Emily Dickinson (of course) and her poem on the Clown beholding this earth as “tremendous” and “a whole Experiment of Green” even though he doesn’t own it. Let’s slow down now to follow this goat trail and consider how efforts as human beings to be compassionate and extend our imaginations to the idea that denizens on earth are fellow mortals. Happy morning to you—Yours truly, Barbara Mossberg

© Barbara Mossberg 2018

THE PLATED SELF: ON BEING TASTY–The Noble Fate or Great Misfortune of Being Tasty, as reflected on in poetry

To eat or to be eaten, or both? That is the question. Life and death. What is our human fate and purpose? These are large questions, indeed, and poetry has some answers to get us slowed down in these hurtling days where we are going too fast to notice all that’s here, to sense the sensational, to pay attention, as Mary Oliver says, to be astonished. . .

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“Poets are the hierophants of an unapprehended inspiration; the mirrors of the gigantic shadows which futurity casts upon the present; the words which express what they understand not; the trumpets which sing to battle, and feel not what they inspire; the influence which is moved not, but moves. Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world.”

Welcome to the Poetry Slow Down, produced by Zappa Johns, I’m Dr. B, your Professor Barbara Mossberg, live at Oxford University, St. Edmund’s College, and we’re talking today about Percy Bysshe Shelley, shhhhhhh, we have revolutionary, post-sub-versive (if you get my drift) things to say about a young man (for so he shall ever be) who advocates for poetry as the force that will save the world. The most contemporary of all poets, on the level of physicists and the spiritual understandings of what the world needs now.

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“We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures.”―Thornton Wilder

“Wonderful to be here”—Walt Whitman

That’s Thornton Wilder and Walt Whitman, and this is Professor Barbara Mossberg, with Producer Zappa Johns, and you’re at

HERE FOR THE PRESENT, for the Poetry Slow Down, the news you need, the news you heed, the news without which men die miserably every day—a good shoe—if the show fits, hear it! :

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THE DAY’S ON FIRE: It’s for the Birds

In a dark time, the eye begins to see, I meet my shadow

in the deepening shade; I hear my echo in the echoing wood—A lord of nature weeping to a tree. I live between the heron and the wren, beasts of the hill and serpents of the den. What’s madness but nobility of the soul at odds with circumstance? The day’s on fire! I know the purity of despair, my shadow pinned against a sweating wall. That place among the rocks—is it a cave, or winding path? The edge is what I have. A steam storm of correspondences! A night flowing with birds, a ragged moon, and in broad day the midnight come again! A man goes far to find out what he is—death of the self in a long, tearless night, all natural shapes blazing unnatural light. Dark, dark my light, and darker my desire. My soul, like some heat-maddened summer fly, keeps buzzing at the sill. Which I is I? A fallen man, I climb out of my fear. The mind enters itself, and God the mind, and one is One, free in the tearing wind.

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On this May day, as our on-air show live today from Helsinki celebrates the happiness in the hear and now, with ecopoetry, an anniversary show of poems of juice shared on this show over five years, no, six, no, seven, eight. A JUICY SHOW We’re going to hear how poets define the juice from Robert Herrick, and Gerald Manley Hopkins (“all this juice and all this joy”) to Shakespeare to Pablo Neruda to Gerald Stern to Winston Churchill, with mojo moxie displayed in poems from Emily Dickinson, Grace Paley, Walt Whitman, defiance energy from William Ernest Henley, Albert Goldfarth, C.K. Williams, Timothy Seibles, the sense of fighting exuberant spirit of Rumi, Hafitz, Kabir, our most senior poets weighing in and showing us juice by the quart, Ruth Stone, Stanley Kunitz, Wendell Berry, Thomas Merton, W. B. Yeats; we’ll hear Mark Strand’s juice unnerving a librarian; we’ll see besieged and beleaguered leaders showing ways of juice including M. L. King, Jr., and we’ll hear Maya Angelou rising, and Nikki Giovanni—the ultimate juice machine—and Thoreau, and even your own Professor B, showing some juice chops as gravity weighs her down (“this is my time now/my baskets/my mysterious flesh”). We have May notes of Wendell Berry, Mary Oliver, Jane Hirshfield, Denise Levertov, W.B. Yeats, Naomi Shahib Nye, Antonio Machado, Rilke, David Whyte, William Wordsworth, and more . . . podcast at BarbaraMossberg.com, slowing down and heating it up, with poetry “without which men die miserably every day” (Wm. Carlos Williams). Thank you for joining me and our Producer Zappa Johns, himself live in our Central Coast studios, 10 time zone hours away, but in the miracle and reality of time/space, here we are all together for this one moment, slowing down for poetry, which has always stopped and held time precious. . . podcast anytime it’s morning in your life, and you’re slowing down to make it last. For the news you need, the news you heed, the news “without which men die miserably every day.” No, that is not you: you’ve got poetry, and poetry has your back and deepest interests at heart.

May I have the pleasure of your company, this May morning?

© Barbara Mossberg 2018


A radio-waving welcome to Congresswoman Pingree, new co-chair of Congress’ Caucus for the Arts; how arts have played key roles in critical legislation for civil and human rights, war and peace, and the environment, including making Presidential reputations for greatness (e.g., Abraham Lincoln). And on the topic of what literary hearts can do for the nation, we explore what they can do for you, specifically, your immortality. O, I don’t mean how artists achieve immortality, but you, actually: your cellular reality. Really, Dr. B? Reading or writing a poem can keep me alive forever? Perhaps! We began to talk in recent shows about the possibility of downloading your consciousness, and you continuing on in digital form, which is, after all, what literature is, a downloading consciousness available forever, as long as time. But I’m also thinking of the news of the immortal jellyfish and its portent for us, and in fact, how the jellyfish’s strategy of infinite existence may describe the process of metaphor, and the existential realities of the metaphoric process. Finally, on the same topic, our show takes up the possible extinction of frogs and toads, long a favorite of literature, and how perhaps now literature can help to save them, not only on the page, in that forever sense, but in their cells, even before lessons of the immortal jellyfish are applied to species. We’ll hear lively earthy poems on frogs and toads by D.H. Lawrence, Billy Collins, Mary Oliver, Elizabeth Bishop, Marianne Moore, and Emily Dickinson, and paeans in lyric stories The Wind in the Willows(is it your favorite, too?), Frog and Toad Are Friends, and folk and fairy tales: the princess and the frog, and we tie it all up with happy endings and never endings: happily ever after!

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