YOUR MIND CAN TRANSFORM A NON MOMENT OR TERRIBLE TIME INTO MOMENT AND COMEDY: Poetry Takes On the Tragedy and Comedy of Life

So Poetry Slow Down! You’re slowing down here (hear hear!) with me, your host Professor Barbara Mossberg, Dr. B, and our production team, Zappa Johns and Nico Moss: you know you move too fast! This is our time to slow down, for the news we need, the news we heed, the news without which men die every day—that idea, –that people can die miserably without the news of poetry, is by William Carlos Williams. But he’s a poet, Dr. B! Of course he thinks that! You’re right, of course, evolved listener, but he was also a physician, seeing patients during the day. He’d go home at night, with memory blood on his hands, and write poems on prescription pads, to save his life, and his patients’ lives—and all of our lives. Yes, he is the one who wrote, so much depends upon a red wheel barrow glazed with rain water beside the white chickens. That’s the whole poem, and he’s claiming that things matter, that they are amazing, the view out the kitchen window, the weedy yard, and for that to happen, to see blaze in raindrops, there’s this eye and mind and heart: the truth that we’re each this cauldron of emotions, that in us is so much greatness of heart, of great feeling, magnitude of feeling, longing, emptiness, tragedy and pain, worry, a sense of importance of our lives, and the most innocent innocuous little things . . . well, there are no little things. Everything matters—as humans, we are triggered by anything, anything in this world, that invokes our ability to care. O, being human! What a piece of work we are! To quote the Bard–

This past week I was thinking about drama—our lives as drama, and what poetry and drama make of it . . . and I wanted to share with you what I was saying to our community, in the Insight Seminars at the University of Oregon, and Osher Institute of Lifelong Learning,

It can be that drama is the most natural of all literary arts—it’s just us, being ourselves. Think of a conversation, not even a conversation, just talking to someone, in person, on the phone—you may have had this morning, perhaps on the way here. What were those words? What happened? You’re going to say now that’s not drama, that’s not art, that’s just …normal life.

Now what happens if you imagine that exact scene, and us watching it? All of a sudden, moments that may have been charged, or maybe that seemed inconsequential, are full of portent, meaning, significance. Through the lens of our vision, they become art. Workaday language we use to order a latte or draft beer or kombucha or say goodbye to our partner or ask who’s seen your phone or to say debit card or I love you or it’s time to take out the garbage become, on stage, art. Drama–tragedy and comedy–provides stage directions for our experience of life’s stages. What did Oedipus learn from the Sphinx? We will engage fierce and funny lifesaving wisdom on aging as we read examples of bravery, foolery, and panache in these and other plays and stage monologues:

Author! Author! Who’s writing our lines? We live our lives from the inside out. Only on the stage page is our human experience visible if not also perceived as meaningful, noble, tragic, and yes, comic. Osher Lifelong Learning, yes: as we seek wisdom for sustainable life, we’re reading together a few fierce and funny famous plays that spotlight the most precious, challenging aspects of our human journey, and give us insight into the age-old wisdom of this dynamic literary form. Facing life’s drama, what is seen about our lives in Oedipus, the Salesman, Blanche, Cyrano, Quixote, Lettice Douffet? From T.S. Eliot to “Hair,” we’ll see drama making tragic and comic hay of our inner Hamlets (and secret Prufrocks).

So slow down, and we’ll stage right now for your ears how drama illuminates what’s to laugh, cry and sigh about when the worldgets you down–or, the Tragedy and Comedy of our Curtain Fates. Thank you for joining me in the wings, and I would love to hear (hear! Hear!) from you, at bmossber@uoregon.edu. Yours truly, Dr. B

© Barbara Mossberg 2018

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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BLITHE SPIRIT OF POETRY LIFTING—AND SAVING–OUR WORLD THROUGH HOPE: A Defense of Poetry (Shelley, 1819) Alive and Well Today

“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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HERE FOR THE PRESENT

“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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A JUICY SHOW: INK IS DRIPPING FROM MY LIPS/THERE IS NO HAPPINESS LIKE MINE (Mark Strand); TODAY I WAS HAPPY SO I MADE THIS POEM (James Wright); NOW MAY CRIES OUT AGAIN, I’M HERE I’M HERE (Alicia Ostriker)

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