Hello, and happy new year, O friends, O ears, hear hear! You’re slowing down for the Poetry Slow Down—you know you move too fast! You know you are supposed to slow down for your health, and mind, and spirit, and poetry is an excellent way of doing that, because it’s . . . well, it’s beautiful, but it’s also strange, let’s be frank, and difficult, and despised even—this isn’t just me talking, it’s William Carlos Williams, who says, my heart rouses thinking to bring you news that concerns you and concerns many men. It is difficult to get the news from despised news yet men die miserably every day for lack of what is found there. –That’s what he said in To Asphodel, That Greeny Flower. That’s a lot. That’s life and death. Now you could say, well, Dr. B, of course he is saying that, he’s a poet. He is an interest in our reading poetry. But his day job is a doctor. It’s his business to save lives. He writes poems on prescription pads, at the end of his day saving lives, with blood on his hands. He should know whereof he speaks, when he speaks of life and death and what can save us.
So our show today, produced by our own Zappa-named for that Zappa –Johns, and hosted by me, your show’s creator, Professor Barbara Mossberg, the luckiest person, to be here with you—hear hear!—going on our 10thyear, this next week we’re coming on to our tenth anniversary of our show, produced every week, beginning with Talk Radio AM, and then internet radio, RadioMonterey, and now a podcast, produced on California’s Central Coast, and I’m broadcasting here in Eugene, Oregon, and you, listeners, are around the world, and it’s an honor and joy to be with you. Today, we’re talking about how we are needed in this world, our great brains, to behold what we see—and love it. Yes—to think of ourselves as lovers of this world, as our purpose! To think of our brains as evolved by earth to love it—Michael Pollen has written about how plants in fact evolve us, and the idea of akrogenesis, psychic plant manipulation of us—an intelligent universe creating in us something it desperately needs—a mirror, eyes, spirit of wonder and awe and amazement, because if we have this way of seeing earth, cherishing it, it is preserved. So it’s very practical, it’s very hard-nosed, this need of trees to be loved by us . . . and who are the PR agents of our earth? Poets come running to the rescue like Rumi’s 12thcentury description of hope for distracted people with life’s traumas (he himself was running from Genghis Khan for 2000 miles from Afghanistan to Turkey):
Be helpless, dumbfounded,
Unable to say yes or no.
Then a stretcher will come from grace
To gather us up.
We are too dull-eyed to see that beauty
If we say we can, we’re lying.
If we say No, we don’t see it,
That No will behead us
And shut tight our window onto spirit.
So let us rather not be sure of anything,
Besides ourselves, and only that, so
Miraculous beings come running to help.
Crazed, lying in a zero circle, mute,
We shall be saying finally,
With tremendous eloquence, Lead us.
When we have totally surrendered to that beauty,
We shall be a mighty kindness..
I’m thinking of this as news is coming in over my news feed about trees—the Archangel project, and cities planting trees, and the fate of our National Parks, right now, and I’m thinking that we can start our year right with poetry that turns our gaze on what is amazing, on awe, on what is shining, on what fills us with rapture. It could be anything, but it seems to me that we have evolved to be able to appreciate beauty, to love, to develop relationships and kinship with species, and that this may not be a coincidence, that we have humans going around overcome with our world and trying to capture it in words—yes, in words that require us to . . .slow down. So let’s begin with poems that bring us to our knees, and us slow down, and poems that have us look down at our feet, and up in the air, and behind the bushes, and at the waving trees in the storm.
And our theme will include aspects of our life today we see with climate change, of storms, of scary and traumatic events, and we will see what poets make of these, so that we may experience them in new ways—wind and waves and weather, and scary beasts.
We’ll do what Ralph Waldo Emerson, in “The American Scholar,” his call for American cultural independence, said, that inspired Henry David Thoreau, Emily Dickinson, John Muir, and Walt Whitman—among others . . .he said, that we must sing objects, and note those things that sing themselves. Events, actions arise, that must be sung, that will sing themselves. Who can doubt , that poetry will revive and lead in a new age, as the star in the constellation …and this is a new age, a new year . . . Never mind that the idea that January 1 is a new year was just made up by a pope, for political reasons . . . January and February weren’t even on the calendars for a long time, and March-the Spring—was the new year. But we’re busy in March, beholding resurrection, and so celebrating while we’re a little exhausted from the holidays gets us going again with purpose and joy and vigor!
And we’ll end with what Rumi means by equating seeing beauty with a mighty kindness . . . if e=mc2 . . . we’ll let Einstein lead us with tremendous eloquence . . . So let’s take off, and slow down . . .
© Barbara Mossberg 2019