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!

© Barbara Mossberg 2019 


Please help yourself to an hour (plucked from Daylight Savings Time), slowing down (because you know you move too fast) for the up of the ThePoetrySlowDown that aspires to be a Holy Fire Reiki for your spirit (as poetry perhaps always has been). With our Producer Zappa Johns, on California’s Central Coast, and me, your host Professor Barbara Mossberg, known to my students and certain bartenders as Dr. B, you are taking this time for yourself to dwell in mystery and wonder, as Paul Simon sings it, or the terrain of miracle, as Einstein conceives it, or Possibility, as the quantum practitioner Emily Dickinson says is a place and way she dwells. 

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“My work is loving the world”–WHAT IS OUR WORK?

A perspective on how we (should) spend our daily energies. A bossiness of poets weigh in, from the late (but always here) Mary Oliver, William Stafford, Raymond Carver, Emily Dickinson, Billy Collins, Lorine Neidecker, Alice Dunbar -Nelson, Gerald Manley Hopkins, William Butler Yeats, Christopher Smart, Richard Wilbur, John Milton, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Mark Doty, e.e. cummings (who loved the world as much?). There’s a lot of loving going on in the work of poets, and the world needs it: maybe this is all our work, loving the world. Yes, I guess, we’re pregaming Valentine’s Day, The Poetry Slow Down with Professor Barbara Mossberg, Produced by Zappa Johns. 

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RUMInating ROUX for all you rue

You’re under the weather, my friend, feeling stressed and blue! Dr. B has a potion that will do: It’s light as a feather, word flour and fat, called for when the world seems sour and flat! Just when you’re going to fall on your face, Rumi’s people run in with stretchers of grace, talking about a mighty kindness, and Wendell Berry is right there with a flighty mindfulness. You may be able to tell, evolved listener as you are, I’ve been reading Dr. Suess, beloved inspirational star, and the rhymes are coming in fast and loose. But like all dishes we need, a little of that and this, we’re stirring in Dante (in dark days in the middle of our lives), and Cavafy (who says embrace the strife and hives).  And more rich fare to air, and that is only part of what’s in store, in our toolbox, our toolkit, our wheelhouse galore, a pantry of angst whisperer and poetic roar. It’s the news feed you need, the news you heed, the news without which “men die miserably every day” (William Carlos Williams), our POETRY SLOW DOWN, with your host Professor Barbara Mossberg (aka Dr. B) and Producer Zappa (that Zappa) Johns, at, live from Eugene, Oregon and California’s Central Coast, with notes of east coast lake district and college riverbank towns, Texas hill country watering holes, Los Angeles plains and mountain lakes, Colorado peak towns where poetry thrives. We have questions for you on our show today, and you can send them our way at, or You’ll receive—and you can write to request– our I SLOW DOWN FOR THE POETRY SLOW DOWN or NO PLACE SAFE FROM POETRY bumper sticker, because you do, and inhabit that space where poetry is welcome. And on that note, I’m grateful to you, who hear this hum, to your ear, to your being here.

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Travel with Dr. B!


July 16-24, 2018

Experience the breathtaking beauty of the Dordogne and Garonne rivers, which together have shaped the scenery and culture of the Bordeaux region of France. In addition to the world-class wines made possible by Bordeaux’s perfect combination of climate and soil, the region has built a rich tapestry of culture and tradition from Gothic churches to opulent châteaus and medieval villages, all thanks to these magnificent waterways.

Resurrection Shenanigans

Whoa! Slow down for a hoe-down! In our series on April gardening, we’ve been hearing from TS (Eliot) and Horace, of course, Shakespeare, hear hear!, Thoreau, chanticleer, he’ll crow, Emily Dickinson, and her twin one, Whitman, ‘n Billy Collins, ‘n Gerard Manley Hopkins, and speaking of kin, W.S. Merwin, Theodore Roethke, not to mention Charles Tripi, yippee, 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, galore—SCORE!

Theodore Roethke, Melanie Waters, Stanley Kunitz. Our Thank you for joining me in this time of new growth, early spring.

I think now of one of the greatest and most hopeful projects on earth, the idea of restoring what John Muir called one of the most sublime landscape gardens on earth, the drowned Hetch Hetchy valley, twin of Yosemite Valley, both in Yosemite National Park. The city of San Francisco in the early 1900s convinced some legislators to dam the Tuolumne River, and make a water storage tank of the valley—identical to Yosemite, waterfall for waterfall, rock face for rock face, river for river—for cheaper water and electricity for the city—even in national park. This was voted on in 1913, and even though that time almost a hundred years ago did not have the consciousness of what is at stake in preservation of wilderness that we have today, even then there was such a national outcry that a people’s national park and one-of-a-kind twin-valley structure was destroyed for a water source—that could be supplied by larger water storage outside the national park—that the National Park System was created in 1916, directly as a result of this furor. And yet the issue has never really gone away, and in fact, even in the 1980’s with Ronald Reagan’s Secretary of the Interior Don Hodel, and today with California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, and studies by the University of California at Davis and engineering and civil studies all proving it feasible, there is a growing momentum for taking the dam down, and restoring the valley, an engineering feat as momentous in logistics and technology as ethics and morality, out of a common love, I think, when it gets down to it, for a garden, a garden that nature made for us. What fueled this effort, organized by Restore Hetch Hetchy, and you can go on to their website and see how the valley was, and the progress of getting this back to a people’s vote on the issue, think of it! You can find something I did taking a page from the poetry of John Muir, and the way he writes about gardens: it is a poem called, If A Song Could Right A Wrong. Recently I wrote a poetic note to the organization, thinking of the significance of its work, as resurrection, bringing a lost valley back to life, like some sleeping Beauty under a spell, with the kiss of a million of people who care. It is called Resurrection Engineering, in the way I see not only civil engineering, cranes and bull dozers and wrecking balls and the logistics of a dam being deconstructed and a river flowing again, but engineering of language, bridges of metaphors, taut lines, tension in rhyme, and engineering of civil action to organize such a national event:

Resurrection Engineering      

The brain is wider than the sky—Emily Dickinson

Poems are made by fools like me—Joyce Kilmer in “Trees,” in homage to John Muir

But only God can make a valley.

True, it appears we can un-make a valley,

We are increasingly that smart. 

We can un-make our planet, in our growing know-how

As we engage this brain of earth.

Human history, a story of bloodshed over water rights,

Ruin over ownership of trees, tragedy

Out of all that is within and atop the land,

Libraries and homes blazing and fields salt and sand.

Learning our history, do you ever want to say,

Oh, around 2700 B.C., or 48, or 1887, or 2003,

Or any day as trees swoon and land becomes stump and ash,

Hills are topped, and river’s voice strangled, mute,

Stop, stop right there? Our perspective seeing how it all turned out

Makes reading our history great wistfulness. Oh, if we could stop!

Do we not stop, until we end it all?

But the story goes on, and we learn,

The more we know, a velocity of knowing better.

Now we possess a glorious knowledge:

We cannot make but we can restore.

Power, to restore a valley that once echoed thunder
With waterfalls, whose river shone in Sierra light, whose massive rock walls

Reflected solar radiance, whose meadows of wild flower

Held red fox and birds and dragonfly.

Only God can make a valley,

We cannot make a valley,

This does not make us fools.

But we can be wise with our God-given powers.

It is in us to make a valley live. 

Let the record show: our To Do list begins, redemption.

Dear Restore Hetch Hetchy:

We have reached a new stage of evolution where human history is the agency of hope. The twentieth century brought in a renewed consciousness of preservation of the earth—keeping what is left. Our century’s work is restoration. It is imaginative work. It needs the poet and the engineer, the lawyer and business leader. It is up to us now to figure out ways in every river valley to rescue rich soil, every mountain and plain, to be restored. We hear of prairies and watershed and mountains and forests, seabeds, coral reefs, being brought back to life with engineering feats and genius of vision. And this is from Emily Dickinson, engineer of “but God be with the Clown, Who ponders this tremendous scene, this whole experiment in green, As if it were his own!” If we consider this very earth our own, claim it as we once claimed land to up-end, take down trees and habitat, dam rivers, flood valleys, and see a new kind of power in owning this earth, we can make it once again tremendous, we can move from the role of fools to the divine work of the visionary who believes in what is possible. This is the point at which a thousand years from now, a child will find history a story of redemption.