BLITHE SPIRITS: Hail to thee, blithe spirit– that’s Shelley, to the skylark, and I’m Professor Mossberg, hailing you, inviting the skylark in you to join me in our Poetry Slow Down, and we’ll find out more about the man who outs the flying-ness in us, whatever is airborne in our spirits, transcending earthly sorrow. Our show today reports on the role of poetry in the life and death of my mother, Ann R. Clarke, whose last breaths were taken to my improvised soundtrack of poets she loved and poems I wrote to find a way to help her and me in this journey to the next stage of her (and my) life. We hear from Edgar Allen Poe, Alfred, Lord Tennyson, Galway Kinnell, D.H. Lawrence, Dylan Thomas, Pablo Neruda, e.e. cummings, William Carlos Williams, Mary Oliver, and others. I read my poems “What Do You Bring Your Mother Who Goes to Garage Sales? (The answer is: Nothing)” about my mother’s legacy of spirit to me as a poet, and two poems I wrote that were part of our last conversation, “Fat Lady Flying,” and “If You Promise To Let Me Write This Down I Promise I Will Buy You an Icecream (“we embrace, and we fly through the air barefoot knowing everything there is to know”). Thoreau’s assertion that our too-busy and hurried lives and useful knowledge prevent the ignorance essential for growth (and living) is taken seriously as an insight into the nature of poetry, how it functions as an agency of such “ignorance” which allows new seeing and wakefulness, creativity, and creation itself. David Grossman’s ideas on how creative writing functions to engage the “sphinx lying at the entrance to each of us” are discussed as central to how poetry serves to illuminate our common fates and create community of the heart we need to live. On this note, I thank listeners writing me at firstname.lastname@example.org and sending poems of solace and support. Listeners on California’s Central Coast are invited to two events for Emily Dickinson’s birthday: my dramatic reading of Dickinson’s life and letters December 9, at the Pacific Grove Library (with home-made gingerbread I am baking from Dickinson’s recipe); and my lecture on Dickinson as Drama Queen at the Cherry Center for the Arts (Carmel) December 10. Next week’s Poetry Slow Down, December 12, is the annual birthday tribute to Emily Dickinson: think presence. She knew we would be celebrating her. Send in your favorite poem and any dedications. Thank you to this remarkable listening community for which I feel blessed: doing the recent shows with you at my mother’s bedside in her last weeks and hours made dramatic poetry’s intrinsic role in our lives.
From Fat Lady Flying
In Memoriam Ann R. Clarke
June 13, 1920-November 24, 2010
With your sentence of death
Which you share with frogs and the heron in the marsh
And the stars, and you see them soar and float,
Radiate and sing out in darkness,
Consider: they soar and float,
Radiate and sing out in darkness.
You have seen elephants and hippos swim,
Glide over river bottom, sail through currents,
You’ve seen the orangutan swing through trees.
So you know the largeness of grace.
What I’m asking you, don’t look around,
It’s you I mean. How? Not by hoist, not a case of heft, or heave,
Cranked by harness, this is not physics of motion.
I’m not sure but my guess is to breathe.
There’s a way of holding breath And it has to do with your eyes in this line,
Imagining the happiness of being weightless,
The buoyancy of a fat lady flying
Who doesn’t even try, it comes when she laughs
And takes in the world, its splinters and pebbles,
Its cries and sagging truths, it’s such a relief
The world exhales and she just rises.
That’s you, how I see you,
See you flying, in these lines,
Your lungs butterflies.
Wind flows over and through you,
And what you hear now is your own voice,
Its awed silence, rising over the world.
c Barbara Mossberg 2010
Speaking of thanks, in our series on life-saving wisdom thanks to poetry, we’ll consider the art of gratitude, the practice of thank you, the devotion of poetry which gives to us a way to see our world, our plights, our flights, our days and nights, in a grander light, noble, part of the human enduring struggle to do right by this gift of consciousness, and in this magic mirror . . . um, excuse me Professor Mossberg, hello! Um, I’d just like to point out that Thanksgiving has passed? And we are well into the next— Thank you, thank you for asking, that’s what I’m talking about: are we in a post-thanks time? Now that we’ve had Turkey and the ballet of football and crush of shopping, is thanks passé, wrapped until its next holi-day?. . . Let’s slow down today—we need a pause, yes? to think about thanking in everyday life. And thinking of you, our Poetry Slow Down listening community, our flight of listeners, we’ll gaze up into our skies and hear more bird-song, ways the poets fold poetic feet into wings, as we think about what birds mean to us in our journey of learning about being human, being alive on earth in this form, with these brains, our purpose here . . . what can we learn from our magic mirror of poetry, from how some poet somewhere—maybe in snow, maybe in rain, maybe in the leaves– looks up or out or in, sees something with eyes, two feet, who can walk and hop, like us, and then take wing, we say, soar, swoop? What hay, so to speak, does a poet make of the bird as a fellow creature? Let’s lift off with thanks and wings . . . it’s open season for thanksgiving! With your host Professor Barbara Mossberg, at the Poetry Slow Down. c Barbara Mossberg 2010
Does anybody really know what time it is? Drat Daylight Savings—or bless this conundrum? Who can say. The Poet can say, says Ralph Waldo Emerson. Emerson waxes forth in Crystal Blue Persuasion, in purple prose effusions, on a new day rising, the pros for daylight savings. Thoreau follows suit. Poet after poet wants to have a word with us. Wordsworth weighs in, Marvel, Milton, W.S. Merwin, Cesar Pavare, Louise Gluck, James Tate, Derek Wolcott, Wendell Berry, Kabir, Chuck Tripi, Ric Masten, Mary Oliver, your host, Dr. Barbara Mossberg, all in favor of daylight savings (also, T.S. Eliot, Cold Play, Bob Marley). Not sure and keeping a philosophic equanimity are Dorothy Parker, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Yogi Berra, Marilyn Monroe, and Groucho Marx. We get notes of Roethke and Gerard Manley Hopkins, Goethe, Ibsen, Benjamin Franklin, and Professor Mossberg’s father and mother-in-law. It doesn’t get better than this, on a mellow Fall day, to slow down with The Poetry Slow Down: you know you move too fast. Make the morning last and save the day by communing with poets. Rumi says the “new rule” when “everywhere is falling everywhere” is to “break the wineglass,/And fall toward the glassblower’s breath.” When we fall, Rumi says, we find something shining. Hopkins concurs (think: “flame out like shook foil”). Fall is the time to start anew in the creation process., to dig deep, for processes of renewal and restoration. Give yourself time for those like Rumi who slowed down, took the time to fall down, to get it down, who worked it up and down, worked it out, to light a way, delight our way to see and know, think and feel. Falling back for Fall: today we’ve got it all! We’ll spend this saved morning hour considering what the poets have to say about daylight and savings, and if we save light in our day, how do we spend it, or do we get interest?
We’ve been engaged in a Poetry Slow Down series in which we consider lifesaving, life-thriving poetic philosophies of life, considering how our light is spent. Of course we discuss Restore Hetch Hetchy and W.S. Merwin’s restoration commitments, and Professor Mossberg’s experience at the Inaugural Reading at the Library of Congress and delivering congratulations from this remarkable poetry community. We still don’t get to the points of view of those with four legs or eight legs, but stay tuned, and we’ll continue our series with the Hospitaliad, and Attitudes of Gratitude, and the sonnet problem-solving workshop, and the Emily Dickinson birthday celebration, all coming up, so set your watches whichever way– Thoreau says it doesn’t matter what time it says as long as it’s morning. We’ll go with Thoreau, because you can listen to this show anytime and morning is yours for the listening. Thank you and please write comments to email@example.com.
Here’s an excerpt from Dr. Mossberg on the theme of falling for a time of year that is regenerative, restorative, and reviving—if we look at nature which is never “spent”:
This Time Is Not Sailboat Without Wind
What did Eliot say, wait without hope. Then Einstein. If e=mc2, waiting is patience. Patience is suffering (ergo “patient’s” two meanings). Frankl said: Strive to deserve our suffering. Think cross legged guru on mountain impossible to get to. With winds howling and no water. It is a feint. The winter trees. It seems like nothing is going on or worse. A time in between, the time you already think of as before. But it is when it is all happening. The later shoots and blossoms and fruits are just by-products of this period, signs it happened. The generative fantastic work, roots in soil, nurtured. You are this winter tree. And when you are doing all that you will do, the fruits and sensational flowers and the squirrels who can’t get enough of you and the birds clamoring for you, and clouds making state visits, and a raccoon or two, worms and butterflies think you are the thing indeed, and moss hangs around, you’re grounded, what you know is that it was all those months when it was storm. When you were tattered, leaves left you in droves, you had nothing for anybody, and all your beauty was whooshed. When you stood there exposed. When it looked like it was nothing happening and there was nothing there to see. That it was over. This was the time. This was the time during. This was the good time. c Barbara Mossberg 2010