We always take advice from poets, Derek Walcott’s Love After Love (“The time will come when, with elation, you will greet yourself . . . “), Rumi (“Say Yes Quickly”), T.S. Eliot (“Let us go then, you and I . . . “). At a time of University Convocation, the beginning of the school year, T.S. Eliot’s birthday, the beginning of leaves turning, we celebrate beginnings of all kinds, beginning at the beginning with the earliest literature, epic, as we consider how epic is begun. We will hear from Gilgamesh, The Iliad, The Odyssey, Beowulf, Divine Comedy (and their poet translators), Dr. Seuss, Walt Whitman, and the case for J. Alfred Prufrock as epic hero, revealing just how much the epic story is one of wanting to tell the story (“and how shall I begin?”), hence the beseeching of the Muse. We consider how perhaps we, you and I, are Eliot’s muse, that he can’t do it alone, a theory we explore with Walt Whitman’s own epic “Song of Myself,” requiring our collaboration as he guides us. In what ways does Dr. Seuss reveal the motivation, the inner Muse, in “And To Think I Saw It On Mulberry Street,” the need to tell a story more true, larger, respecting the imagination, and the human need for story that takes us on a journey, into the depths and heights of consciousness? How does he reveal the start of, the voice of, epic? And Alfred, Lord Tennyson “Ulysses,” enticing us, his crew/reader, to go with him always on a continuous odyssey, a new beginning: “it is not to late to seek a newer world.” So says Thoreau, claiming he has more lives to live. So we begin, telling each other our stories, beginning in the middle, making heroic sense of our comic and tragic and everyday struggle. And so we do not end but begin again each week on our Poetry Slow Down. Thank you for joining me.
© Barbara Mossberg 2013