The Role of Poetry in Living Deliberately—the art and science of going to the woods, so to speak.

And so we are! Speaking of the woods:: e.e. cummings’ sonnet of gratitude, amazement, for every thing, alive again today, ready to take in all that’s leaping greenly, true blue: that’s us today in our PoetrySlowDown with Professor Barbara Mossberg, me, your Dr. B, what the doctor ordered, and our Producer Zappa Johns, and consulting editor Nico Moss, on the art and science of slowing down, and we’re talking about joy and what living deliberately has to do with it, and going to the woods, and poetry, and for that matter (life and death), slowing down. Did you just hear joy? Yes, joy. With our headlines and cultural fault lines and your deadlines and face lines and check out lines and check in lines—joy? Is this a typo—isn’t it Bossy Barbara’s Guide to Job—the Boss—job—I get it! But this is a radio show for our actual lives, the news you need, the news you heed, the news “without which men die miserably every day,” a line from William Carlos Williams, so let’s frame it with him in a real-world way.  First, I would like you to jot down one line for what you worry about, fear, a hopeless knotty problem that you face. This is just for you—and of course for the whole world when it’s posted, but that’s for another time. We are going to get to this in Part Three of our series on Bossy Barbara’s Guide to Joy. Okay, now that we are grounded in the real world you actually live in, we take up our PoetrySlowDown theme, for we can’t get very far in this life without poetry—and it has always been that way:

“Men die miserably every day for lack of what is found there”—in “difficult” and “despised” poems . . . so says William Carlos Williams. Well, isn’t that’s ridiculous? That’s making what’s in a poem life and death. Even for a poet, that’s a pretty extreme statement. Life and death. Yet William Carlos Williams would know, because in his day job, he is a physician; he has blood on his hands, literally; he is dealing with life and death; and at the end of the day, he goes home, to make a house call on himself, and writes poetry, on prescription pads, as if to save his life, and the life of his patients, who, it turns out, are each of us . . . .

So what is the “news” in a poem? We could turn to the poems he writes, such as—as this is the whole poem in its entirety—

So much depends upon a red wheel barrow

so much depends


a red wheel


glazed with rain


beside the white


Ummm . . . Dr. B, with all due respect (noted, and thank you), this seems a little bit of an overstatement: do we have time for this? I have taxes and bills are due. Is this statement realistic? “So much depends”–what is up with this insistence on life and death stakes and so much depends upon . . . gazing in the yard at something SO inconsequential, because, believe me, I’m busy.

Ah, you ask, what is UP with . . . and you are so right, you have nailed it, you have your finger on the pulse! Yes! The issue is, what is UP! And I’m going to tell you—because, yes, I’m Bossy Barbara, I came by this title honestly—but I have done it in the name of UP . . . Upness: And it’s my JOB . . . as it turns out . . . to encourage and inspire JOY!  The joy that comes from slowing down—as in Paul Simon’s anthem for our show, The 59th Street Bridge Song: Slow down, you move too fast, you’ve got to make the morning last, just kicking down the cobblestones . . .hello lamppost, wacha knowin, come to watch your flowers growin, aint ya got no rhymes for me, . . . he’s a poet, and he’s scanning his urban environment for what inspires poetry, in his effort to make the morning last . . . it isn’t slowing down for slow’s sake: it’s living in a way that makes the morning last, and if we want to know why we would ever want to make the morning last, we have mythology, aurora, the dawn, or testimony of the first humans having made it through the night and now celebrating morning, or our own time’s Henry David Thoreau (speaking broadly here, in terms of geo). We’ll hear Thoreau on morning, and Alfred, Lord Tennyson, explain the connection between slowing down, morning, and having a fresh start in one’s day, being fully conscious, eyes open, ears awake: it is hard work being alive! We’ll hear poems about what is at stake in poetry being our morning, slowing us down, in saving the day, saving our lives. We’ll hear about herons and cranes and the hokey pokey, grasshoppers, hammocks, horse manure turned into blazing gold, and ways of making the ordinary moments extraordinary, all that our earth deserves in our notice. Thank you for joining us for Part One of Bossy Barbara’s Guide to Joy! And we’ll get to your worry, so keep what you’ve written down. Yours truly, Dr. B

© Barbara Mossberg 2018

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