homage and quaff to Sir Peter Shaffer, Charles Wright, Alfred, Lord Tennyson, Emily Dickinson, T.S. Eliot, Walt Whitman, Mary Oliver, James Wright, Yeats, Chuck Tripi, notes of e.e. cummings, Dylan Thomas, Shakespeare, Homer, and Dave Barry.
It’s my little homage—Lettice Douffet, and this is Professor Barbara Mossberg, on the Poetry Slow Down.
Homage: reverence: respect, honor, worship
Poems I have taken into my being as part of my own knowledge of the world and be–ing. The epigraph is from Sir Peter Shaffer’s Lettice and Lovage, with Lettice describing to the once stern bureaucrat Lotte Schoen who has been interrogating her—now softened by a home-made drink from a chalice– what Lettice’s drink of quaff is, her “homage” to the great medieval recipes –a drink that puts Lottie on her ass—ignment of following up on the woman she has fired for too enthusiastic and artful interpretation of a museum to rouse tourists into an appreciative fervor for poetic life. Fierce Lettice is really my role model as an artistic appreciator—and her mom—hopelessly (or helplessly but hopefully) dedicated to literary arts that produce“the three E’s” that Enlarge, Enlighten, and Enliven. Never mind that no one wants to partake of Ms. Duffet’s teachings of Shakespeare and history and the great poets. Lettice resists anything that is “mere,” what Emily Dickinson calls Prose, what Thoreau calls not being awake, lives of quiet desperation, and she carries on, a clown of modern life, a tour conductor whose bumper sticker would read, I slow down for beauty, or, like John Muir, also a tour guide, I jump for beauty, for glory, for grandeur. She is a heroic defender of enthusiasm for the arts in daily life. Our show is an homage to Sir Peter Shaffer and his deep and joyous work to bring the life-saving, culture-saving arts to life, as they once kept him going deep in the mines as a teen-ager, reciting Shakespeare to himself as he toiled in the darkness.
WHAT THE SHOW WAS GOING TO BE ABOUT TODAY:FIRST, ROCKING POETRY, REPORT FROM EMILY ROCKS! AT ROCK AND ROLL HALL OF FAME IN CLEVELAND, AND ALSO, TRAVEL POETRY, WITH CONTRIBUTIONS FROM OUR PACIFIC GROVE AD HOC POETRY COMMITTEE, CATHY GABLE, AND ALSO, HOSPITALIAD, ON MEDICINE AND POETRY RX THAT WILL FIX YOU RIGHT UP, SO MANY WAYS THAT I WANT TO SHARE WITH YOU ON HOW POETRY MATTERS IN OUR LIVES, BUT TODAY, POETRY SLOW DOWN LISTENERS, I HAVE JUST TURNED 64, WILL YOU STILL NEED ME, WILL YOU STILL FEED ME, WHAT DOES POETRY MATTER? I AM REFLECTING ON THE ROLE OF POETRY IN MY LIFE AND AS I BEGIN THE NEXT STAGES IN THIS HUMAN JOURNEY. Each poet “homaged” here has written lines that me carry on a little more bravely, and more grateful for the gift of consciousness of living on this earth.
So we will get to rocking poetry with Emily Dickinson, and that includes chaos theory, and Tennyson and Walt Whitman to boot, and travel poetry which is tremendous, and Rx poetry, therapy for the spirit, but I will share with you now, poems that I have carried with me on this journey, that have meant to much, and will you hear e.e. cummings i thank You God one more time, YES, you will, YES, I SAID, YES, I will, YES, that was from James Joyce’s Ulusses, Molly Bloom’s soliloquy, and will you hear John Muir, YES, THE Glory! and what about Tennyson’s Ulysses, yss, and Charles Wright, Journal in the Year of the Ox? You bet, and Emily Dickinson, natch, and James Wright? Of course. And Yeats, and Blake, and Shakespeare. Neruda—“Walking Around.” Mary Oliver. Dylan Thomas. Stanley Kunitz. Charles Tripi. Walt Whitman, O Walt, we were not going to leave you out! Ever! And Henry David Thoreau. And Fleetwood Mac. Simon and Garfunkle. And those songs that sustain the spirit! And those books that form our moral boundaries and invoke the spirit of the poet! Huckleberry Finn, Wrinkle in Time, Brave Irene, Wind in the Willows, Pinnochio, Dumbo, fairy tales, Leo the Late Bloomer, and writers of our time who speak to us in media, Dave Barry, On Turning Forty, a wonderful book, and some greats of poetic prose, Jeffrey Eugenides’ Middlesex, Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man, books on the struggle for dignity, identities of worth, proving the doubters wrong, saving the day, the daunted heroic self inside, isn’t that the Plot! Books on mattering, how in our hearts we’re all always the underdog from childhood through old age, who knew? The poets knew! The poets know! Is that what it means to be a poet? And is this why poetry this difficult if also sung, this sung if also difficult, way of expressing truths, cloud thoughts in our human skies, is a slow downed way to feel seen and heard, to be known, to know that you belong, are part of, our community! There are others out there who are Your Peoples! Your team! And that encourages us in our being: how did somebody, probably alone and suffering, weird, considered useless, extravagant, a character at best, certainly more poor than not, who feels so strange, who feels compelled to sing her or his song, that is so unique, how is it that this strange unknown someone, stranger, can know us, speak to us, matter to us, make us feel and know how WE matter? Be someone we take into the tent of ourselves, comfort and solace, excitement, wonder: someone far away in time and space, someone who . . . well, in my case, for example, let’s say, reading Tennyson, feeling roused by someone who never longed for morning coffee, had a manicure, a surfboard in his office, pitched a baseball game, longed to be asked to dance—you eighth grade guys, you wonder why you have bad days? Karma, I’m just sayin, all those plump girls in pleated ironed white dresses standing by the wall, someone who never went through childbirth, well wait, we all go through childbirth, but my point is, this poet laureate of England dude, how could he possibly speak to me? Or Homer, whom I’m convinced was a woman, or Emily Dickinson, who never waited at the gate wondering at this life that needs to take a plane, panicked at the thunder storm outside—or anyone really, in different times and places, so alone, writing the lines that fall onto envelopes or are typed or scratched in clay or chanted, that we claim for our own, take into ourselves and know more what we are and why it matters and what is at stake in this self right here right now: That is the miracle of poetry—the mystery of poetry!
Now, our Poetry Slow Down, as soon as I said I was 64, you were singing, weren’t you:
Will you still need me, will you still feed me,
When I’m sixty-four?
And I think that’s very nice, that our culture gives us a sympathetic view of aging, from the young ones for whom it is a metaphor of um, not me, sort of, not in my back yard! And so let us begin with some famous poems on aging that were written by whippersnappers, younguns, that I loved, and you loved, when we were young: T.S. Eliot’s Love Song of J.Alfred Prufrock, Eliot was a young man! Who imagines aging! Shakespeare’s Sonnet 73, written by a young man, imagining himself an aging pathetic dodderer, for that matter, Eliot’s Prufrock, also pathetic, and then Tennyson’s Ulysses, and that’s really where I want to start, because that was my favorite poem when I was in high school; I wrote a college application essay around it; it was to me not about aging but an approach to living our life, staunchly, with resistance, a love of life! Of complicated life! Of life alone and with our mates, suffering and happy . . . this poem SEES me . . . knows me . . . that is what a poem can be, like a friend who knows you and loves you not anyway but because who you are is inextricable from your behaviors. This poem takes you from despair to sending you off for one more excellent adventure! Once more into the fray, good friends, as Shakespeare would say: let’s hear it then. It begins with an old man, retired, an underdog, “idle,” in an environment of withering, a still (chill) hearth, aged wife, barren earth, but to the young Tennyson mind, Ulysses is not resigned to this fate of irrelevance and sad old age. In fact, “I cannot rest from travel,” “I will drink life to the lees,” and lees, O listeners, who are even now as I speak downing your drink and soaking up those lees on the bottom of your glass, the sediment or dregs in a bottle of wine in days of yore, so that you keep bringing it in and on, invest more and more in it, he’s saying he’s going to go for it to the last drop, even if those last drops ARE dregs, sediment, yuck in fact—bring it all on, this whatever life will bring to us. My mother always said: if you don’t get old you die. Getting old: consider the alternative! Dave Barry said this too—a very wise man. And she said, growing old is not for sissies, quoting, I believe, was it Lilian Russel or some famous forties fierce epic lady of defiant spirit, role models of spunk for her generation. Well that’s how Tennyson in the 1800s sees aging, from his young perch: and I think as a high school student reading these lines and thinking they spoke to ME, I cannot rest from travel, I will live life to the lees, all times I have enjoyed greatly and suffered greatly, both with those who love me and alone, this seems to be a thought for all of us for every day of our lives, for consciousness as a human being. We cannot live less. We cannot live, as Sir Peter Shaffer said, even before he became Sir, it’s why he did become Sir, MERE—his autobiographical play as an artist, Lettice and Lovage, he makes his own self the character of zany Lettice, daughter of a wacky Shakespearian actress who ekes out a living bringing Shakespeare to the unappreciative French rural farmfolks traveling from barn to barn; Lettice says her mother’s anthem mantra is the 3E’s: her approach to living is to enlarge, enlighten, enliven. Size/mass; knowledge/revelation; vivacity, vibrancy. She uses poetry to enlarge, enlighten, enliven, to make us more, not MERE. Her enemy is all that would force us to be MERE, just getting along, what Emily Dickinson called Prose, what Henry David Thoreau said was waking sleep—his term for what Lettice/Peter Shaffer is calling for is being AWAKE—that is what Tennyson is calling for in living life to the lees, however drekky they may be, especially as we face the issues that life brings us as we age, the news coming in like messengers in a Shakespeare tragedy, the king on his parapet, O Sir, the woods are burning, the troops are in sight, the oracles are bad, the sheep in the meadow, the cow in the haystack, the horse left the barn, as Roseanna danna, the great late Gilda Radner said, one thing after another . . . so: we commit to drinking life to the lees, hoist those cups, matey listeners, O Poetry Slow Down! and let’s hear the rousing to his mates of his old guy who refuses to be corralled, to be Nobody, to be irrelevant, to be what Dickinson called “still.” He’s a Don Quixote, a Henry V, from Cervantes or Homer or Shakespeare, come once more into the fray, good friends: the fray: the fray is not easy, it is frought, it is frightening, it is frequently awful and possibly mortal, but not without great suffering first, let’s not underestimate “fray,” when we commit to it. That’s what’s heroic—so why and how does this speak to a high school girl who was known to her family for being scatterbrained, i.e., as my mother would apologetically explain to people whenever I did anything, “she’s a poet,” and I was either excused from the family action for reading—Where’s Barbara? Probablly Reading! And I was, I heard them, I kept reading—in eighth grade, it was Homer, the Iliad and the Odyssey, myths—or writing in my journal, hunched over in the backseat of the car on family trips, or in the tent, or on some rock . . . because I think, that most of us feel essentially and necessarily invisible, nobodies, persons of no importance, in Eliot’s words for J. Alfred Prufrock whom we’ll read in a few minutes, ridiculous, “almost at times a fool,” so let’s begin with poems by Emily Dickinson, you think it’s I’m Nobody, and that’s true, I think of this poem, and it still is brewing in my mind, but the way she works on me, and poems work on us, first happened to me in graduate school over forty years ago. I had experienced something that was very painful, and these words came to me: After great pain, a formal feeling comes. How can a poet speak for you? Know you? This is what Charles Wright, whom I carry and always read on my birthday, says:
“I admire and revere and am awed by a good many writers; I have been in thrall to several. But Emily Dickinson is the only writer I’ve ever read who knows my name, whose work has influenced me at my heart’s core, whose music is the music of songs I’ve listened to and remembered in my very body.”
That’s what I’m saying about the miracle and mystery of poetry, that someone like Charles Wright, in Charleston Virginia, Thomas Jefferson’s university, the South, feels that a little Yankee lady of Amherst 19th century knows his name: that her poems are so alive and true to him and his BEING that they are in his body. Just as she sees life from her upstairs bedroom window, overlooking the pine tree, he sees from his back-yard lawn chair “my biggest canvas,”and you know we’ve talking about bats on our show, from my time in Austin Texas with the bats, bat festival coming up in two weeks, watch for it! We’ll hear several of his August (birthday?) poems about his back-yard
“Meditation on Summer and Shapelessnes,” “Back Yard Boogie Woogie,” and “Sitting a Dusk in the Back Yard after the Mondrian Retrospective” as well as from the great, great “Journal in the Year of the Ox.”
Part Two: Tennyson, young, in his twenties, is facing a life crisis. His friend has died, and how does one go on? Can one go on? Can we be roused from despair? He turns to poetry. He turns to our first poem in recorded history, after Gilgamesh, 1000 BC, Homer’s Ullyses, about a hero who takes 20 years to get home to his wife and son in Ithaca. It ends with the happy ending that he’s home, end of story. Life’s journey: check! But Tennyson looks at this story and in his homage, in his cover of it, he re-imagines the ending as not an ending at all. He has to deconstruct the happy ending. It’s not heaven on earth, peace at last, it’s . . . BORING, when all is said and done. When there isn’t anything to do anymore, any more challenges—monsters, tempters, storms, gods, rocks and waves, everything seemingly against you, alone in the universe, never giving up . . . it seems STILL, and dull. You know who also didn’t like this notion—I just realize—Emily Dickinson—I don’t LIKE Paradise—because it’s Sunday all the time, and recess never comes . . . if God could never take a nap, but Him with perennial Telescope behold us. . . and she always talks about how they try to shut her up, her wildness, in good behavior, what she calls “still.” “Because they liked me ‘still.” Still! Could themselves have peeped and seen my brain go round, they might as wise have lodged a bird for reason in the sky. Himself have but to will and abolish his captivity and laugh—no more have I.” So SHE doesn’t want to be still, go to a heaven so dull and OVER, and this is the predicament Tennyson imagines Ulysses is in, LITTLE profiting, by a STILL crag, it’s barren, no one knows him anymore, and he’s restless, he’s chafing . . .
So his restlessness is going to save his life, even though it may kill him.
Viva! And writing the poem restores life to Tennyson who goes on to be the nation’s Poet Laureate and live to ripe old age of honor . . . .
T.S. Eliot, the same age as Tennyson here, at young-age crisis, in The Love Song of J.Alfred Prufrock, starts with an homage to Homer layered on Dante, who took up the story of Ulysses in the 1400s . . . .
Now Poetry Slow Down, here we are, loving both poems, inspired by both poems, and yet they are like matter and anti-matter, right, one, all heroic doing dare, bring it on, I’m up to it, come on, mateys! Let’s go! Like Churchill, never, never, never, never, never Never give up—and the other is, I’m not a hero, I was not meant to be, this trembling vulnerability, self-consciousness, hardly daring to take oneself seriously, one’s despair a comic matter, a poem about insignificance . . . both poems, it seems, are about the desire to be heroic, to be consequential, even to the person in the mirror . . . the self within . . . who dares to disturb the universe by being . . . who senses the momentousness in being . . . a person driven by desire, by longing . . . both face drowning, knowing full well what’s at stake in going out into the fray . . . . both are lonely, alone, and yet want to engage with this happening world. . . . both are about to set forth on a journey: and isn’t Prufrock, now it seems to me, like Ulysses after all, rallying his listener, us: Let US go then, YOU and I, . . . let us go and make our visit, O do not ask what is it . . . let us follow certain streets . . . /come my friends, tis not too late to seek a newer world . . . push off, smite the sounding furrows . . . and do not both wrestle aging, being old . . . I grow old, I grow old . . . Prufrock says, and Ulysses, you and I are old . . . old age hath yet his honor and his toil . . . Prufrock, I shall wear my trousers rolled . . . do I dare to eat a peach? And Ulysses all about daring hunger: I cannot rest from travel, and this grey spirit yearning in desire . . .
I think of Whitman, striding forth on the journey, in Song of Myself, I stop somewhere waiting for you—none of our poets wants to go it alone, each one wants us as a companion, the reader of the poem, their imagined community: they cannot leave home, get home, without us. In Pasage to India, Whitman expresses how we are forever on this journey:
O we can wait no longer!
We too take ship, O soul!
Joyous, we too launch out on trackless seas!
Fearless, for unknown shores, on waves of extasy to sail,
Amid the wafting winds, (thou pressing me to thee, I thee to me, O soul,)
Away, O soul! hoist instantly the anchor!
Cut the hawsers—haul out—shake out every sail! 245
Sail forth! steer for the deep waters only!
Reckless, O soul, exploring, I with thee, and thou with me; For we are bound where mariner has not yet dared to go,
And we will risk the ship, ourselves and all.
O my brave soul!
O farther, farther sail!
O daring joy, but safe! Are they not all the seas of God? O farther, farther, farther sail!
I keep this in my suitcase, not only my traveling suitcase but the suitcase of my mind: encouraging me on, and you? Poetry slow Down, we’ll be back after the break with Sir Peter Shaffer’s Lettice and Lovage, Mary Oliver, my Austin awakening, and more . . . 540AM KRXA Think for yourself radio . . . .
“I cannot accept merely…I do not do anything merely.”
That’s Lettice Douffet. And this is Professor Barbara Mossberg, for KRXA 540AM, Think for yourself radio, and we’re thinking of rousing spirited poetry to take on life’s journey, and why it matters. Sir Peter Shaffer is a playwright whose work celebrates the rousing spirit of the would-be poet cheerleaders on this journey, or ministers of solace and consultants of wisdom . . . windows of insight into our path and the attitude that is going to take us through it so that we see what’s there to see and and why we’re supposed to see it. He develops a character named Lettice Douffet who makes homages to qualities of life that she wants to honor. Our show today is an homage to writers on our journey, including Shaffer! His plays, Amadeus, about Mozart, Equus, about a young boy and his psychiatrist, all deal with the quest to honor life with an appreciation of creativity, in how we think and express ourselves. In my own sleuthing, Detective Mossberg finds his autobiographical play in Lettice and Lovage, where two woman representing supposedly opposite approaches to life, one enthusiastaic, and one repressed, find common cause—a mutual commitment to fighting off The MERE, with, as it turns out, similar parents who were warriors on the front of bringing arts to our civic lives. Shaffer’s life was shaped and saved by Shakespeare’s poetry, and so was the mother of Lettice Douffet, his hero of all time, ultimate tour guide of life: live it UP, dress it UP, embellish it, through the lens of the poets. The expression for which Shaffer is most famous, as his aesthetic, is spoken by Lettice, in her own proud defense in being fired from her job as a tour guide messing with the facts. She is told by the government bureaucrat, who’s firing her for taking liberties with the historical facts, to tell her story, sticking to the mere facts. She answers:
“I cannot accept merely…I do not do anything merely.”
Mere means meager; measly; simple; sheer; plain. “that and nothing more,” literally; by itself. Well, this will not do. We cannot live this way. Not really live. Not allow ourselves to be impassive, not to care, not to see. We must defy whatever bores us—find within experience its roots that nourish our own spirit of admiration and wonder.
Lettice’s favorite thing is admiration: wonder: making more of something, never the mere, never what suffices . . . poetry, not prose, not what just comes to mind, but something crafted, something beautiful to behold . . . wonder at, admire.
Not the MERE. the ugly, the petty . . . all to rouse in us enthusiasm for life really. She’s a teacher! She comes to us at first as a tour guide, desperately trying to rouse interest in tourists who are bored beyond belief in Fustian House, reciting her script about it. She begins to embellish the story and make it dramatic, full of life, all in poetry, and the tourists are entranced, enthralled, to the point where the British Trust office comes to investigate, hauls her into their offices, and fires her–but not before she has made her case, her defense of art which is making the most of life, never settling for less. She says she inherits this from her mother, an actor who ran an all woman theater troup taking Shakespeare to the French provinces.Finally Lettice and Lotte team up to take on the defense of beauty in our world! Taking up what Percy Bysshe Shelley called for in 1798 in The Defense of Poetry, a stirring account that roused forth poets into the fray to say their words! Without which we could not live quite so beautifully or joyously or bravely or consciously . . .
That’s my story and I’m sticking to it . . . would we imagine splendor in the grass, even as an aesthetic possibility? Would we imagine glory in looking at a wild world? Would we imagine the dignity of a paunchy middle aged man, his tragic need to be important, to his children, whether King Lear, or Willy Loman;
And all this backyardness philosopher kingfish puts me in mind of another Wright, James Wright, lying in a hammock at William Duffy’s farm, Pine Island, Minnesota, also I believe on an August day like today,
Over my head, I see the bronze butterfly, Asleep on the black trunk, blowing like a leaf in green shadow. Down the ravine behind the empty house, The cowbells follow one another Into the distances of the afternoon. To my right, In a field of sunlight between two pines, The droppings of last year’s horses Blaze up into golden stones. I lean back, as the evening darkens and comes on. A chicken hawk floats over, looking for home. I have wasted my life.
That seems to be the issue here: how to spend our life, our time, our energy, this great gift? Not to waste it. To live purposefully. And so we hear one of our favorites, Mary Oliver, another August poem, A Summer Day:
Who made the world? Who made the swan, and the black bear? Who made the grasshopper? . . . I don’t know exactly what a prayer is. I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass, how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields, which is what I have been doing all day. Tell me, what else should I have done? Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon? Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?
Isn’t this the question, after all? We don’t want to waste our lives! And so the Poet is calling us: calling us to wonder: Who, she asks. Who, who, who, as if, we are supposed to be wondering this ourselves; we’re supposed to be lying on the hammock, looking at the sky, the trees, the yard, even the dried horse plop, marveling, on this world. Reading the poem, Wright and Oliver are our Lettice Douffet tour guides, and shows us what’s there, the splendor in the grass, if we only open our eyes to see, to grasp what’s there, a grasshopper. And the chance to see this, if we only slow down enough, not to waste time, not as idlers or slackers slowing down, but to spend it wisely: tell me, she asks us, tell me, asks the poet of us, in us, what is the plan, for our ONE wild and precious life? It’s the only one. It matters so. This is good to think about every day. As e.e. cummings says, of every day, any day, how MOST amazing it is: this is the sun’s birthday, and this is the birth-day of life, and of love and wings, and the happening illimitably earth. As I am reflecting on my birthday perch, on life, this is what I think, my own “wake up call,” a literal alarm, in the middle of the night, in darkness, calling me to consciousness, to awakeness, opening myself to the possibility of meaning . . .
Wake Up Call, Austin, 4:41 am
I am glad not to have seen whatever made the little mountain on my neck and inside of my knee and on my calf and thigh; I feel it and know I was visited. I do not know the purpose, perhaps an angel, as I hear the clanking business of the train in the night, but do not see it. Perhaps its purpose is not to visit me, perhaps its purpose is nothing to do with me, but that cannot be so, since it is my ears, my being, awakened, my profound shaking. I do not know how I serve, what purpose I have, in such swelling, or for the pounding awake moment of listening, what may be holy service.
First, I was imagining some monstrous creature biting me, and glad not to see it, not to know what it was that had kneeled on my flesh, pierced my flesh, evil or bowed in worship. Then, realizing it was a visit, I was opened to the idea of a Visit. Then, not seeing it but feeling it, I likened it to the sound of the train, a visit of sound in my mind, waking me, literally, alarm to some kind consciousness. Now I was open to the idea that these visits are on purpose by Some Being, bite or sound of train. And then I considered that I myself might serve the train, the insect, by my being, by my flesh, by my hearing, my opened flesh, my open ears. And in this way perhaps open to the idea that I might, in this being of flesh and hearing, open, giving, taken, might in this way be of service. How we cannot know how we serve. How it might be angels who awaken us, to the angels within us, this holy chance of life.
I woke up thinking of these words, dreaming these words.
I remember now Sophia telling me she did not sleep the night before, hearing the train, hearing what she thought was me, in the next room, walking about. Who was that? Tonite I hear the train, I hear the walking about, the noisy business of angels in their own earthly flight, in life’s engines, insect or train, fan, or garbage service, I cannot say or know the boundaries of spirit in this world.
The train is beneath my window three flights down, and the night before I did not hear it at all. Tonite I do. I was struck, going to sleep, Sophia in the next room, only days into her first apartment, her new Texas life, and Nicolino making Oak Knoll newly alive, fixing it up in every way, and Christer in a Bethesda hotel room, gravity has no pull, we are weightless, hurled into the Universe, I’m a whirligig of consciousness, each with me, each of us transforming into something new, I was struck by prayers of thanks, I am saying thank you thank you thank you thank You thank You thank You thank You thank You. Until I am vibrating with You, ringing with spirit of not knowing what to think, dazed with journey fatigue, amazed being in a new land, on this clanking, shining new road, called, in darkness, listening, awake. c Barbara Mossberg 2012.
Well, so, our Poetry Slow Down, that’s my latest poem, on turning sixty four, and isn’t the Beatles’ song, will you still need me, will you still feed me, the question of how we can possibly matter to others, the desire to be useful: as Tennyson says, to SHINE in use, shine, like a scrubbed copper cooking pot, to serve, to deserve, this life, this consciousness. The poets of my life, I have such gratitude for, for giving words, splendor, to how to think and imagine possibilities of heroism, simply mattering . . . homage . . . let’s QUAFF each other, in celebration of this life, in celebration of the poets who provide us a mind-track for our journeys, enabling us to see the splendor, the glory, and transcend the mere. To you, Sir Shaffer, to you, O poets, for whom we slow down, to you, O Poetry Slow Down, slowing down today with me, I QUAFF to you, and you, Producer Sara, and Hal and the KRXA 540AM crew, and my one wild and precious family, to you—on this August Day, when, to quote Charles Wright, “the plum tree breaks out in bees,” the world is momentous in a poem. Next week: we rock! And on that note, let’s hear Dave Barry, from his book Dave Barry Turns Forty . . .his homage to T.S. Eliot and Dylan Thomas, his advice to us is to NOT go gentle into that good night, not at all, but to live it UP, by slowing it down, to becoming a geezer, and he says, The main thing is don’t be discreet. I see no reason why we should fade quietly away just because we’re getting old. Let’s not go out with a whimper. Let’s go out proudly whapping the umbrella of defiance on the taxicab hood of time. Let’s remember the words of that rock song from the sixties, the anthem of our entire generation, the unforgettable song that spoke for all of us when it said . . . when it said . . ummmm. . . .Jeez, how the hell DID that song go? Well, Poetry Slow Down, next week, we’ll hear! I’m Professor Barbara Mossberg, thanking you for YOUR ears and time, my homage to you, dear Listener.
(c) Barbara Mossberg 2012