When the President of the United States responds to a public massacre, an attack on America’s elected leaders and processes, calling for us to enlarge our moral imagination–question! What is moral imagination? Question! What is being called for, and how we are called upon? Question! Can we change the news of sorrow and disgrace? Question! Can a way of thinking and being change the heartbreak of the headline news? Question! Isn’t this something that the Sphinx was calling for—isn’t this what Einstein . . . what Shakespeare . . . what Gandhi . . . what King . . .  Ah . . . At our Poetry Slow Down at KRXA 540AM “(think for yourself”), we listen to poetry (which Dr. Williams claims may be despised and difficult but without which we will die miserably—and he was a doctor dealing with life and death every day so he should know) for insight into the moral imagination. Our music selections for our show give a clue to the genius and miracle of transformation, the power of the poetic mind to change our world: I’ve got sunshine on a cloudy day . . . if somehow you could pack up your sorrows and give them all to me, you would lose them, I know how to use them, give them all to me . . . when you’re weary . . . when tears are in your eyes, I will dry them all, I’m on your side . . . like a bridge over troubled waters . . . you’ve got to give a little, you’ve got to live a little, that’s the story of, that’s the glory of love.” Who’s talking here? The poet, whose thinking can turn it all around. How so? “I turn to you,” O poet. So, we are going to talk about what kinds of thinking change our world, that we call genius. We frame our show with Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream,” an expression of moral imagination that is celebrated with a national holiday, and the role of poetry in King’s vision (we will hear Henry David Thoreau’s influence on the poetry of King’s mind and of the Civil Rights Movement). We begin with Poet Albert Einstein, and Poet Richard Feynmann, and other physicist poets, whose imagination of transformation calls for a moral sensibility at our most genius selves. We’ll talk about the Sphinx and the life and death stakes for community in having a moral imagination. We’ll talk about the relationship between genius and poetry, metaphor and moral imagination, and how it is that we have a President of the United States who is calling for this civic common genius. What is the role of poetry in President Obama’s vision of us and what is possible in our civic culture? We’ll hear from another President, as we think of upcoming Presidents’ Day, the role of poetry for President Abraham Lincoln, and for Barack Obama . . . we’ll hear some prophetic poetry by our president (pinch me!) on the moral imagination, the genius of empathy, of compassion, and a vision of how poetic thinking is what human wisdom, expressed in the Sphinx, called for so long ago, the essential knowledge we need to live in community, how we belong to each other and our earth. He’s a poet. I’m just sayin. This is Professor Barbara Mossberg, for the news we need. Write me your poetic thinking at, and stay tuned for the good-news-making high school sonnet project, “I’m Nobody: Turning It Around, the Genius in I, and You, and Us,” feeling Grovy, right here on The Poetry Slow Down.

© Barbara Mossberg 2011


JUNE 22 – JULY 29, 2011
Marilyn O’Rourke Gallery, Benicia Public Library150 East “L” St., Benicia, CA 94510


How to Apply:

VISUAL ARTISTS:  Please submit five representative JPEG images of your work. Work need not be related to news. Include a paragraph statement of your interest and general artistic background; highlights will do. Please include in this the category of news that most interests you. A list of general possibilities will be found in the white box.
Email complete contact information (Name, Mail Address, Email Address, Phone Number, Cell Number) to:    Subject line: I READ THE NEWS
Artists selected will be asked to create a SINGLE 2D piece of art based on a news article. Media might include but is not limited to painting, printmaking, photography, mixed media . Finished pieces can not be larger than 50”x50” framed. They will be displayed with a poem that is written about the same news event and the original newspaper article.

POETS: Please submit five representative poems. Poems need not be related to the news. Include a paragraph statement of your interest and general artistic background; highlights will do. Please include in this the category of news that most interests you. A list of general possibilities will be found in the white box.
Email complete contact information (Name, Mail Address, Email Address, Phone Number, Cell Number) to:    Subject line: I READ THE NEWS
Artists selected will be asked to create a SINGLE poem, 40 lines or fewer based on a news article. Poems will be displayed with a visual piece of art about the same news event and the original newspaper article.

Human Interest
Domestic Affairs
Arts and Theatre

Interest Applications DUE: FEB. 12, 2011
Accepted artists will be contacted by email by FEBRUARY 28, 2011
12 Poets and 12 Visual Artists will be paired by Poet Laureate of Benicia, Ronna Leon, and a Board member of Arts Benicia, Nikki Basch Davis.
Pairs will be given the contact information for the Poet or Visual Artist they have been paired with. If possible, they will be encouraged to meet together to select an article they will create around. Details and suggestions for this process will be supplied to accepted artists and poets. Poets and visual artists will work alone but in reaction to the same newspaper article of their selection.
Questions? Call:Ronna Leon, 707 746-5597


The new year slumbers

Restless beneath quilted white

Dreaming of roses—

That’s California State University Professor Pam Baker, haikuing it up in mid January, and this is Professor Barbara Mossberg, hi you, haiku, Pam’s grand slam haiku, we’re at the Poetry Slow Down, KRXA 540AM, with Producer Sara Hughes, and the subject was roses, but we’ve still got roses on our mind–your fault, O flight of Poetry Slow Down radio waving community! This past week, you were so SWEET, sending poems and responses to our show, the green bough in our heart at, and the show began, give me a rose in the winter time, when it’s hard to find, give me a rose in the winter time, I’ve got roses on my mind, for a rose is sweet most any time and yet, give me a rose in the winter time, how easy to forget, and who can give us a rose in the wintertime, who are we asking—and voila, here comes running on poetic feet, iambically limb-ered, hell0, poets (if roses didn’t exist poets would have invented them, they are the ultimate symbol for whatever poets want to talk about—the big things); maybe it’s the poets singing give me a rose in the wintertime, when it’s hard to find. . . I’ve got roses on my mind . . . the poet in each of us, appealing to the Muse, in the wintertime of our imaginations, our spirits, when it’s bleak: our muse is a rose gardener, making roses bloom year round in poetry, and for us, poets till our souls’ gardens and cultivate roses out of the dark rich soil of our imaginations: so I gave you a little bouquet of poems and poets who have roses on their minds . . . who knew that it was going to turn out that  literature is a hothouse of roses. We continue with Pablo Neruda (and check out Carmel, California’s Cherry Center’s exhibition on artist Mary Heebner, who does paintings in response to Neruda’s poetry). Recalling Neruda’s poetry on roses, we trace the influences on Neruda, Shakespeare, William Blake, Walt Whitman (and Edgar Allen Poe, celebrate him this week with cognac and three roses), Garcia Lorca, and Cervantes, and their exquisite poems on roses. We hear from poets we love on weeds wax on roses, Gerard Manley Hopkins and Theodore Roethke, and follow up Roethke on roses with roses in Stanley Kunitz, Stanley Plumley, Rita Dove, Mary Oliver, St. Exupery, Hawthorne, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and W.S. Merwin, as poet and translator (of Neruda). Why does it matter that roses bloom year-round in poetry? Your own Professor holds forth on this “news we need” and the hypothesis that such poetry about the earth can change the news. More on this next week. And you are encouraged to contribute to a California Poet Laureate project I am excited to support that bridges painting and poetry (see below). I can’t remember when I have so enjoyed researching a show and reading listener mail on this topic—and it was all because of you. There are dozens of poets and poems on the subject of roses we did not even get to! Next week, stay tuned for poetry and civil rights, but don’t be surprised if roses are still on our minds. . .

© Barbara Mossberg 2011


this is not a dark show, but a show filled with imagination’s colors and invoking of lifesaving creativity at a time of darkness

If I keep a green bough in my heart a singing bird will come. Chinese proverb

Give me a rose in the winter time, when it’s hard to find, give me a rose in the winter time, I’ve got roses on my mind, for a rose is sweet most any time and yet, give me a rose in the wintertime, how easy to forget—that’s a Girl Scout song, and If I keep a green bough in my heart a singing bird will come, is a Chinese proverb, both about a way to live through winter blues and

darks, strategies of the imagination, images, memories of what we love drawn from our hearts and minds, and that’s what I’m talkin’ about, this is Professor Barbara Mossberg, with the Poetry Slow Down, how our imaginations are vital, the gift that keeps on giving, keep us going, give us a sense of hope we need to live, to draw from in our winters. Here in California where I’m broadcasting there are actual, not just remembered, roses in the wintertime, oranges hang from green boughs outside the window, with bright green leaves, and still some orange fish in my father’s dark green pond, although we lost the orange-turned-luminous pink goldfish this morning, or we discovered its loss this morning, in our ritual checking the pond to begin the day with a celebration, to marvel at the triumph of orange in dark water and dark night, orange surviving cats and cold and raccoons, and now, staring and staring, filling in the pond with the pink fish in our minds . . . But the question is a metaphor: How do we access the rose in our wintertime? The luminous pink fish in our life’s pond? Poets, what say you? It seems that every poet weighs in on the rose, the spirit of the green bough. We’ll read some, Shakespeare, Mark Doty, Gary Snyder, William Carlos Williams, Kermit the Frog, David Grossman, Ezra Pound, Emily Dickinson, Walt Whitman . . .  John Updike, Robert Frost, Thomas Campion, Amy Gerstler, Dorothy Parker, Gertrude Stein, Pablo Neruda, and others, life’s singing birds; the rapture of a rose in our sights, its complicated constructed beauty that we never take for granted—that this troubled abused earth in spite of all we do to it, yet produces this rose, that we distracted and stressed humans grow such beauty; give me a rose in the winter time, goes the song, and to whom is it addressed? The poet, the maker, the imagination of our humanity: and our poets answer: they give us the rose in the winter-time. So from ancient Chinese to Girl Scout wisdom, we will hear what makes for green boughs in the heart, the mind’s roses in the wintertime, poems that like marmelade preserve the orange and sweetness when the authors are toast, long after the oranges are gone and before they appear again, and stories about how the imagination can save our lives and preserve our spirit of fortitude: I will begin with two stories for us, about what is at stake in being able to conjure a rose in the wintertime, a green bough in the heart for us, one from the book I was telling you about a while back, David Grossman, an Israeli newsman turned novelist whose latest book has been translated into English by Jessica Cohen, To the End of the Land, and one is a story from my own life these days, from the ongoing drama at my late mother’s and father’s house, and they both have to do with life and death. And we see an unexpected happy ending, deux ex machina! While we are still outside of the box, ashes container or coffin, let’s use our creativity, our imagination, our poetry, to conjure the green bough in our hearts, the rose in our wintertime! Examples from the real world: my avocado tree, which grew resurrected in green out of a dried out withered stalk, and my pink fish, photos are here!

© Barbara Mossberg 2011


(Foy, did you say, Dr. B? Did she say foy?—no, I think, oy—as in oy vey?–shh)

Our cryptic and elusive (and sly, no?) title points to a foxy trail: think a little “oy” and a lot of “foy,” a literal and metaphoric feast that celebrates our new beginnings (think: New Year, resolutions or not) and sustains us for the journey ahead, a feast for which we pack it in, pack it up for later on our travels and travails. Foy is a theme we get to by the route of the fox, who leads us astray, off-road, off-trail, for what is wild in our language, sweet as grapes; I was hunting for fox in Funk and Wagnells and alighted upon foy, the feast before a journey, something we need to begin things right. The Poetry Slow Down will take our sweet time to consider the nature of essential feasts before journeys, whether a New Year or a road trip or Odyssey, homeward bound. We begin the homage to a mirthful, tender, grateful hour on the eve of the New Year with William Cullen Bryant, toast with a cup of kindness old acquaintance Robert Burns, linger with Ted Hughes’ “The Thought Fox,” savor Edna St. Vincent Millay’s philosophy, dally with Dr. Seuss and Doctor Desoto, William Steig’s genius mouse who takes on a fox patient, and hear Robin Becker’s foxy celebration poem, as well as Sheila Nickerson’s beast sampler, and this leads us to “Smell” by William Carlos Williams, notes of Gary Snyder on “Berry Feast,” and on to talk about the “foy” from the irrepressible Isaac Asimov, whose birthday we celebrate, and who is revealed as not only a Shakespeare, Milton, Swift, Bible, Greek, Roman (etc.) devotee, and poet of limericks (along with John Ciardi), but who has a study guide out on Gilbert and Sullivan, his favorites. We consider the “news” and the need for poetry-trained leaders of civic society (think Alexander the Great, Nelson Mandela, Lincoln, Churchill, King, Eleanor Roosevelt, etc.). And returning to Bryant and his role in the (poet) Lincoln’s candidacy for president, and picture book editions (one by John Muir!), we pause to reflect on the coincidence between Asimov’s study guides and Bryant’s translations of Homer. Oh! and we foy-around with Charles Tripi’s writing about Blake on fox, and a suspicious letter (think: poet-made?) illuminating what happens when words are not used wisely, the need for creativity and connection with creatures and systems of the earth, and on that note, stay tuned for deep ecologist Gary Snyder, and of course, poetic recipes for thriving in and surviving the fray. . .Thank you for listening and your great contributions. Hear hear! © Barbara Mossberg 2011