Our show begins with a poem on a hat left by a member of the Pacific Grove (Ad Hoc) Poetry Committee at residence of truly yours, Poet in Residence for said city; Susie Joyce made it into a song, and one thing led to another, which is the way of hats and poets and poems, and so she sings on our show, she brings my poem to life, and makes it shimmer and have panache and je ne sais quoi, and then she takes another one of my poems, Bones and Flesh, and sings that, and after this, you will be really slowed down, for what goes with hats, bats, of course, since I was just in Austin, Texas, an anthropologist observing crowds on Congress Bridge waiting for the nightly appearance of bats (Did you say bats, Professor Mossberg? I did) (Honey, did she say bats?). Yes, really, I did, I do, and what I immediately wondered was about the poetry of bats, and it turns out OF COURSE that great poets write great poems about bats! And we’ll hear D.H. Lawrence, Theodore Roethke (also on weeds, speaking of creepy crawly things creeping out gardeners), Mary Oliver, Carolyn Kizer, Robert Hass.
From Part Two, Hats to Bats
Susie Joyce is a poet, musician artist, and citizen leader, you just heard her sing my poem about Marge Ann Jameson’s hat, the same Marge Ann Jameson who is publisher of The Cedar Street Times, check out their home page! which publishes poetry of our community, and has a sense of style so powerful that just her HAT alone transformed the Poet’s Perch in which I live—and how music just does something to words to make us hear them—Hearing each other . . . hearing our world . . . as e.e. cummings
wrote in his invocation sonnet i thank You God for most this amazing . . . day . . . he ends, now the ears of my ears are opened. Perhaps when we do really hear we hear the music, the singing that is the essence of life. . . You know how they say music and math are allied in the brain, and how mathematicians are almost always musicians as well, and how Einstein played the violin and wished he were a musician, and Richard Feynman spent his sabbaticals learning math and playing Brazilian instruments and drums, and my friend Jack Roberts, whose book on chemistry you may have studied—or not—as in my case, I always was excused from chores because I had to do my chemistry but really I was writing poetry—you know this—well he says that everything in the world, every reality, can be expressed mathematically, and perhaps, I’m thinking and you may be too, that that means that the reality that math expresses may be music . . . I’m just sayin, and John Muir, he heard the stars sing and river sing, and rocks sing, the world to him WAS music, this most passionate poetic writing, and perhaps this is what George Eliot means when she says,
That element of tragedy which lies in the very fact of frequency, has not yet wrought itself into the coarse emotion of mankind; and perhaps our frames could hardly bear much of it. If we had a keen vision and feeling of all ordinary human life, it would be like hearing the grass grow and the squirrel’s heart beat, and we should die of that roar which lies on the other side of silence. As it is, the quickest of us walk about well wadded with stupidity.—That is George Eliot, from her 1871 novelMiddlemarch . . .
And so of course, since we are talking about hats and bats, we have to talk about squirrels,
So what we did here in PG was a program last month calling on our local poets to create Mayhem, fusing poetry and music, and Robert Marcum of The Works sang, and Catherine Badin, and Susie Joyce, and Charles Gilbiterra read, at the Pacific Grove Public Library, the city host of the Poet in Residence Program with Lisa Maddalena and her legions of friends of the library—bless them each and all—and we’re going to do this again, and Susie and I are going to do a joint program where she responds—it’s so jazzy—to my poems and poems of others, lifting them higher, taking them deeper, noticing the notes, hearing the music . . .
We’ll hear about the poetry of bats! –bats in our belfry—what’s in our heads! Is this nutty? Oh yes, And squirrels! Are you bats, Professor Mossberg? Oh yeah, you will be too, glorious loopy swooping attuned poems on bats, so stay tuned, we’re slowing down, hanging upside down, looking at life the bat way, and I’m lifting my hat off to you, Susie Joyce, for making Marge Ann’s hat sing to us.
Well , WE here at the Poetry SLOW DOWN, dedicated devotees of not being so quick, so fast-paced, we know we move too fast, and so here we are, slowed down so that we could hear the grass grow—and the squirrel’s heart beat . . . . the roar on the other
side of silence, what the Universe has to say to us. That is how we can truly live—we love on this show how Mary Oliver and Walt Whitman implore and invite and entice us to get down in the grass and see eye to eye with a grasshopper or eyeball a blade of grass, and Henry David Thoreau has a credo of listening to the corn grow . . . slowed down we gather into our senses the roar and rush and voice of the happening world we live in. On this “note” here check out “Cool Dust” by Aaron Shurin whose goal, he says, is to make us make HIM sing: here is his listening self at work.
We savor these poems of Lawrence, Roethke, their deep humanity and humor, Oliver, Kizer, Hass, poems awake and engaged with our world, poets making our world visible and beloved. What is it about a weed or bat that inspires a poet’s transforming eye? When the great Marianne Moore writes her signature poem, Poetry, bats are in her eye, beholding:
Marianne Moore, you say, hey, wait, isn’t she the dame with the passion for baseball? Ah, Poetry Slow Down, now you’ve anticipated where we’re going, from hats to bats, to . . . bats!. . . .as in, baseball bats, and we’ll be hearing a baseball poem next week, so stay tuned, but first, we have to get back to George Eliot’s inferring that the happy among us, the genius among us, slow down to hear a squirrel’s heart. Now the squirrel is talked about in the same way as the bat: to insult someone’s thinking, someone might say, they’re batty, they’ve gone bats, you’ve got bats in your belfry, like . . . no one’s at home in your cognitive land . . . .the same way we talk about squirrels, a mind not functioning, is squirreling, things that are not right are squirrely . . .
87 up, 24 down
|Adjective: 1. mildly insane
2. unpredictable and jumpy, often in a cowardly way
3. nutty; resembling a squirrel looking for nuts
I read about some squirrely guy, who claims, he just don’t believe in fightin’.
And I wonder just how long, the rest of us can count on being free.
Do you remember from the musical Annie, Miss Hannagan sings Little Girls, sometime I’ll land in the nuthouse, with all the nuts and the squirrels!
[Children’s books and songs feature bats, like Janell Canon’s Stellaluna, an ugly duckling for bats, and Sesame Street, Count van Count has thousand of bat pets, and goes about in a batmobile! There’s the song Bats in my Belfry, and Batty Bat . . . Shel Silverstein has a poem on bats.]
Well, to be nuts about something is to be really excited about it, as squirrels are about nuts, a little eccentric in one’s enthusiasm . . . when we come back after the break, we’ll hear about a squirrel who came to class, in a poem I wrote in which a squirrel just popped into my mind. . . I had no idea how it got in there and it kept talking! I’ll read it and maybe Susie has some pipey vibes for us . . . and we’ll talk about the other kind of bats, speaking of something we’re nuts about, baseball, this is the time, and Marianne Moore was a passionate baseball fan, so be dusting off your popcorn for next week. Meanwhile, Part Three!
Part Three, Hats to Bats to Batty to Batting and Let’s Not Leave Out Squirrels!
I’m going to share with you my poem in which a squirrel also “intruded” into my mind, and started carrying on . . . it’s called Resurrection, from a poem by Wendell Berry, The Mad Farmer’s Liberation, which he concludes by saying, be like the fox, practice resurrection . . . and bats are likened to flying foxes . . . well, bats aren’t in this poem, but squirrels are, here we go:
Title of poem:
Resurrection: leaping orangely spirit of fox
i who have died am alive again today—e.e. cummings
And it’s about the sighting of fox by scientists, fox we thought were extinct because of our hunting—fox another kind of bat or squirrel or weed—get them out of here—and yet the poet hears, as George Eliot says, the squirrel heartbeat–And this is what I was thinking, reflecting on how poets we’ve heard write about weeds and bats—and if you go onto google and type in squirrels in fig tree, you’ll get all these sites about seven pumpers, which I found out is a gun . . . I mean . . . Hopkins plea, O let them live! The poets we HEAR—Kizer and Hass and Lawrence and Oliver—give us a way to see our way to love this whole world—in which ALL of us live—in all of our Universe–And I wrote in my journal on the plane for you . . .
So here is some of the poem by this certain lady:
. . . who knew the leaping greenly spirit of trees have standing
and to Wendell Berry, whose “Manifesto” urges foxy wisdom: Practice resurrection
Trees are poems the earth writes,
Of course, says insouciant grey fox, who (praise gods) can read,
Who is the first Forest Professor, holding the Alpine Chair.
Why, asks the fox, using the Socratic Method,
The one he taught Socrates in the Grove,
Do you think there is such excitement in the sight of me,
Leaping once again on the high slopes? It was blurred,
But I heard a scientist wept at the photograph.
Yes, squirrel? (I’ll have you for breakfast later.)
The squirrel rises to the occasion, cannot help being a good student,
Even though it costs him his life.
Well, from the Buddhist perspective, adds the fox,
Life here, life there, it’s all continuous flow.
You’ll be grass, or me, tomorrow.
You’ll live again, just as I have, all these years, despite (like you)
Human hunters and hungers, in quest of skins and tails and stew,
Charging forests with knives and guns,
As if our forests were an enemy camp.
And the trees, abiding wild life, aided and abetted:
The trees were guilty as charged, and we saw them hung.
People danced on their stumps, left them to rot, like carcasses of buffalos
Slashed for their humps. We hid, like outlaws, those who lived,
In what forests were left.
Yes, squirrel, you have an answer for this morning’s news, the sight of us?
That one, perhaps two, might have survived, if eyes do not deceive,
Might love indeed, someday as common as grass?
Question from squirrel: did you say love?
No, I said, live.
All due respect, you said, love, anyone reading this poem can see that plain.
That isn’t even grammatical, your mind is squirreling. I wouldn’t say love
Is common, even if you could say “love common as grass.”
It is as rare as a rare red fox, sighted in alpine heights.
Ah, indeed, live, love: loved fox one day be common as grass?
I wonder, says squirrel, Professor Fox, no, this is me asking,
Squirrel could not conceive such question,
To what you attribute this Wordsworthian joy in your leaping presence
Once again in our world? Our hearts leaping up to behold a rainbow in the sky?
Says fox, not that I think it is deserved good news, totally, that we may yet live;
Not that you deserve the glory of the sight of our fur,
A red cloud, orange current rushing in the grass, always a blur,
But the trees can say.
The trees stand for us, rooted and flying,
Live, love, trees think it’s simple, the same thing, what can’t be without the other, Says Professor Fox. If you need me, if you grieve me,
Listen to earth, singing about me in trees.
I’ve always lived in poetry, adds the fox, I’m Hughes thought-fox, I’m Rich’s dream, Clifton’s “dear,” tutor of The Little Prince, sleep of Merwin, I’m in Khartoum in 2006
With Al-Saddig Al-Raddi, even the moralists, Aesopian, citing my love of grapes,
Like you, Poet, by love of chickens, like you my wise guy ways (hey hedgehog)—Wait, you said, says squirrel now, by love of chickens, did you mean,
My love of chickens?
I said, my love of . . .
No, you said, by love of . . . It’s here for all to see.
So I step in, the writer of this poem, on the news I read of Sierra rare red fox spied,
Who have died, alive again today, not all dead, giving us now another chance to
Let them live, in their crafty ways: what am I saying, another chance for us, to love,
I mean live, I mean love, I do mean love, well, live perhaps by love of,
Our crafty leaping love of, this world’s fox-loved nests, sweetness and wings: love, Learning earth’s wild voice that speaks in trees, and fox in us, we who live poetry.
Thank you, Susie Joyce, and Susie, I am hoping you will share with us your own poems that you would set to music—would you come back? –and so the squirrel, here, who turns out to be the noticing one, because when your life depends on finding nuts, you have to know what’s going on. And so, moving right along, from hats to bats to batty to bats! As in baseball! Next week! Stay tuned for Take Me Out to the Ball Game, Lying Down Outside the Ball Park, slowing down the poetry way. I’m your grateful host Professor Barbara Mossberg, making these bat cries in my cave, thanking you for joining me, for being here, and writing me at email@example.com.
© Barbara Mossberg 2011