(Would a tree ask this question?) Meanwhile, or is it rather kindwhile, but meanwhile in terms of ways and means, how do we spend our time when things are loosey goosey and goose droppings of news are drooping like rain—here (hear hear!) is the news you need, the news you heed, the news without which men die miserably every day, so says William Carlos Williams, the physician, who would know: poetry’s role in our day, poetry’s say: today, a red letter day, and we’ll talk about what that even means, we have good news, which is how earnest science perseveres to give us facts to live by, to prevent bad news, immediate and longterm; we have news about the diagnosis of the rare Codex (sp?) disease, in which someone feels slightly dead, not alive, but rather in an afterlife, as if one is not real . . .Poetry can do something about this!–and it occurred to me that this is what Dickinson describes in so many poems, that experience of having died but being there—did she have this? And yet, the wonder about one’s being alive is so human, so lively: it is wonderful, and poetry captures it.
Do you have moments when you are walking around and wondering, am I alive? What does that mean? How do I know?
There is a development in science in which people are exploring how immortality can be achieved by downloading consciousness, making the brain a digital version, so that one lives on in a virtual way—another kind of after-life? In what sense is poetry the downloading of one’s consciousness?
April 12 Beverly Cleary’s birthday. Ramona the Pest, age four—for whom a Red Letter Day was her first day of school, learning to read–shows us a kind of immortality as we consider the joy of consciousness.
What’s the meaning of the phrase ‘Red letter day’?
In earlier times a church festival or saint’s day; more recently, any special day.
What’s the origin of the phrase ‘Red letter day’?
This comes from the practise of marking the dates of church festivals on calendars in red (from Roman times B.C.) .
William Caxton, referred to it in The boke of Eneydos, translated and printed in 1490:
“We wryte yet in oure kalenders the hyghe festes wyth rede lettres of coloure of purpre.”
We’ll hear downloads of consciousness of being alive (quintessentially human), from Hafiz, Robert Bly, Jane Hirschfield, Jack Gilbert, Rilke, Leonard Cohen, Ellen Bass, Cavafy, Emily Dickinson, Marie Howe, and others: each celebrates the moment as a Red Letter Day.
I loved doing this show, and I hope it brings you joy, too, as we gather the community poetry reveals, as one mind after another downloads consciousness into not only our minds, but us immortally, over time and space, making us belong to a larger community of humble gratitude for existence, human scale.
With notes of Ink Spots, Newsong, Red Letter Day, Travis Tritt, and, of course, “The Yellow Rose of Texas.”
© Barbara Mossberg 2018