Life and Death Stakes in Paying Attention, Your Own, Each Other’s, Our Earth’s, and What Amazed Poetry Has To Do With It. (Mary Oliver (a lot), D. H. Lawrence, Emily Dickinson (of course), John Muir (a lot), John Steinbeck, Arthur Miller, Ray Armantrout, Rachel Carson, Susan Schultz, Thich Nhat Hanh, Andrew Epstein and more)
Slowing Down for our Poetry Shoe (if the show fits, hear it!), with our poetic feet, for the news between the headline news, the late-breaking heart-breaking news, the news you need, the news you heed, the news “without which men die miserably every day” (Dr. William Carlos Williams, who knew all about life and death stakes). We could say that this news is like the dark matter that is supposed to comprise the bulk of existence, but perhaps it is the “light matter.” It is the news about how we live and think and see illuminated by poetry. I’m Professor Barbara Mossberg, Dr. B, bringing us Our Poetry Slow Down, with Producer Zappa Johns in our Central Coast studio production headquarters, and I’m broadcasting today from Eugene, Oregon (go Ducks!), in the midst of teaching eco literature to our Clark Honors College students at the University of Oregon. In the sense of “light” as knowledge and what is spiritually a source of insight, I have been thinking of something that a friend, Pastor Brian King, of the Harvest Community Church, said this past week. He was holding a cup of “coffee” and appeared to trip and spill it. He was illustrating a question: when we are knocked by situations in life, bumped, tripped up, fall all by ourselves, whatever makes us spill our coffee, imagine ourselves as the cup. What’s in us that spills out: what’s our coffee? We turn our minds around on this, think about what it is we know, what it is we’re about so that any bump spills it forth, when we are hit with the bumps of life, or even a well-meaning friend or innocent stranger or life event shakes loose what’s inside us as we lose our balance and equanimity and poise and sure-footedness. What pours from us as we blithely proceed when we collide with a soupcon of life’s reality? Hear (hear! hear!) And Sophia Mossberg interrogates the legal use of the term “Acts of God” for catastrophes (language to justify why they are not helped by insurance), while John Muir and Einstein and a globesworth of poet soul-mates who would save the earth, concur, conceiving the everyday, the “drab,” the ordinary, the invisible, taken-for-granted world as astonishing, miracle, beheld. I would like to suggest in what ways you and I, O PoetrySlowDown, have the ancient, perhaps most ancient, way of words, and Word at hand to spill from us, resources for life’s jostle and falls. I am thinking of Mary Oliver’s beloved blunt “Instructions for living:” Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it. Poetry is one way we tell about it, when we pay attention, and for her, this may be the same as prayer, she thinks: she calls to us on a summer day, when she’s on her knees in the grass (idle or doing her life work?), and see what she sees, and what there is to wonder, and ponder, and how and why we can live this one wild and precious life of ours, the poetry way.
I’m excited and grateful you are listening to our show today, “light matter” on which so much depends, including life and death.
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© Barbara Mossberg 2018