Top of the morning to you! We’re weathering together this late January day. We’re celebrating in this time that ancient civilizations didn’t even consider real time—it was just a no count time of no time they waited out til spring! But we’re going for every moment, slowing down to experience what’s going on all around us in earth’s news and how to make our time here on earth together something meaningful, something precious. Every day the sun doesn’t give up on us—earth keeps turning resolutely, sun rises, and we have a new chance, as the poet Henry David Thoreau says, the sun is but a morning star. Last week we were talking about the Inauguration of President Obama, his being sworn in on the bibles of Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King, the Oscar-nominated film “Lincoln” celebrating civil rights legislation, and a national holiday for Martin Luther King, realizing the role of poetry in the moral leadership and moxie of Lincoln, King, and Obama, as readers and writers of poetry, and today, we’ll explore how the poets who gave them resolve, inspired them, kept them wise and resilient, getting up to keep trying every day—themselves dying supposedly as failures in their own lifetimes—writers who are the bedrock of conscience and courage, and by coincidence, this weekend the whole world is celebrating the birthday—the life– of Bobby Burns, and it’s a whole ceremony and ritual, and I know Poetry Slow Down you are UP for slowing down for this, so I’m going to walk or talk us through it, it’s a whole shenanigan, I won’t lie to you, and it’s so serious Poetry Slow Down that there is this ad on a website for what is called Burns Night:
Instant Toasts in 60 seconds 100% Refund if not satisfied
www.Speech-Writers.com/Burns_Night So this is serious
business! And we’re going to be prepared to do one of these toasts! So a how-to celebrate Bobby Burns is on our menu today, but first, why? So that gets us back to Lincoln and the role of poets in his own life and hope and resilience as a leader—and what Burns has to do with it—and his influence on not only Lincoln but John Muir and Bob Dylan, and people everywhere—look up in your community, there’s a Burns community, there’s even cities east to west named for Burns, in New York and Oregon, and a statue of him in Central Park, along with Shakespeare . . . and from our do it yourself guide to celebrating his birthday right, we consider the anomaly of how one person can make a difference to our world, through poetry, even someone considered a nogood no count like the month of January, how a poem can rouse us to a sense of REASON for celebration, we’re going to hear about a whale festival going on right now, and Yes, I went myself with my own eyes to report for you, I saw a whale breech, and scores of spouts, and we’ll hear what poets make of the co-existence of fellow mammals in this world of ours, something to leap up about, and how we come finally to matter to each other, utterly—so that’s our menu for today . . .you’re going to need some whiskey, and friends ready to seriously carouse, if you’ve got a sheep intestine, that will be good, and leeks and turnips, and we’ll make you chief of pudding, not a bad way to spend the day and make the morning last . . . as Henry David Thoreau said, only that day dawns to which we are awake. So we are awake, and grateful there is more dawn to come. The sun is but a morning star. And this idea that we don’t give up, and life doesn’t give up on us, there is always the chance for resurrection, every day, healing and forgiveness and the chance to get it right, was the basis of Thoreau’s influence for the civil rights and environmental leadership of Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King and Gandhi and John Muir and so many . . . Thoreau was mad, he was furious, at his neighbors, his countrymen, for living harmoniously with slavery, yes it was legal, but it didn’t make it right, yes the government was making war with Mexico to get Texas for another slave state, and legally taxing its citizens, but that didn’t make it right, yes he was what he called a majority of one, alone, and yes he was jailed, for his “civil disobedience,” but he didn’t give up on the message of love, and hope, and speaking out for what was right in human affairs—justice and freedom. The same man who talks about hope in winter—whose job, it turns out, is to awaken and also encourage us to be our best selves—writes passionately about apple trees and “slavery in Massachusetts,” linking inextricably freedom and resurrection.
Meanwhile we explore what poetry means to Lincoln for his own resilience and imaginative moral engagement with civil war, human rights, environment, and justice, the poetry that impacts him, including Bobby Burns. We are going to celebrate Burns’ birthday and do it correctly, but we want to know why. Burns’ poetry through the lens of an anguished and conscientious Lincoln gives us reason to cheer his life.
In our Part Two, we outline the process for the official dinner, including the recitation of the Selkirk Grace and the poem To the Haggis (don’t gag), the review of his life achievements and struggles (his life was a mess, and that’s the meaning here, what he made of it in his poetry), and the finale. We’ll post the procedure so you can undertake your own shenanigans to honor a poet of compassion for life across scale, for dignity, up, down, and charm.
Speaking of festivity, we move on to another late January ceremony, the devotion and practice of witnessing: watching whales migrate. I am your Anderson Cooper reporting on the sight of scores of spouting plumes among white caps, and we hear what poets make of this, leading off with John Masefield’s “Sea Fever.” We’ll review poems about whales in future shows (D.H. Lawrence is the most sexy as you would guess—his sea is “hot” and “urgent”), but today we focus on three by Mary Oliver, of course “Humpback,” and “Bone,” but also the remarkable “Reckless,” which makes intrinsic our pondering of whale, fox, heron, hedgehog (each a favorite topic of our Poetry Slow Down) to our earnest effort to understand soul and our own locations of spirit. Oliver engages the mighty world of grasshopper to whale with only an anthropologist’s backpack of wonder, a vulnerability that is so absolute it is beyond reckless; it is fearless. Such surrender makes clear its basis as one of trust in our world, and her reader. This trust seems the root of Truth, and Beauty.
POETRY SUPERBOWL TEAM:
NEXT WEEK’S SHOW FEBRUARY 3 2013
So Poetry Slow Down: we’ve just celebrated Martin Luther King Day, the Presidential Inaugural, “Lincoln,” the film, Haggis/Bobby Burns Birthday, whale migration festival, and in this wave of festivity, another national celebration ritual is coming up, the Superbowl next Sunday following our show . . . of course it’s related to poetry, you knew that, you evolved ones, the Ravens, named for Edgar Allen Poe, poet of Baltimore, who wrote The Raven, once upon a midnight dreary, and I’m thinking of a poetry superbowl, an all star-team, Emily Dickinson, wide receiver (“the spreading wide my narrow hands to gather paradise”), QB, is it Emerson, calling the plays for The Poet? Write me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or Barbaramossberg’s The Poetry Slow Down on facebook, and tell me your ideas for poet positions for our team . . . .We need an offensive and defensive cohort, and we may even bring in ringer football player/poets. If we can see poetry illuminated by football, an activity that absorbs our rapt attention, enlivened by color, commentary, play by play, what is the ball, and how does one succeed? Or is the game the poem itself, the poet both offense and defense, trying to create meaning against the forces of conventional thought and all the pressures trying to stop one’s flow? Is carrying the ball the metaphor, the velocity of meaning, the making something that was not there before, that changes our world? And what do we eat, when we write or read a poem? For movies, we know: it’s popcorn and in my case, Junior Mints, for tailgate parties, is it barbeque? Well, we’re going to have recipes for a poetry tailgate, poets on food to nourish our spirits . . . haggis if you like, or Pablo Nerudian fried potatoes, or Dickinson gingerbread, or Eliot toast and tea, or Ferglingetti penny candy, or recipe for happiness, or Baudelaurian wine, or Williams’ plums or Elizabeth Alexander butter . . .
We’ll talk about poets for Pre-Game and Post-Game, and of course a Referee and Coach.
Join me for Pre-Gaming with Beaudelaire and Li Po, Sunday PST Noon-1 pm KRXA 540AM, or I’ll meet you back here.
Thank you for listening, for being part of this community . . .I look forward to our being together all week . . . Savor the poetry in your life and day, this hour and time, slowed down to make the morning last, I’m Professor Barbara Mossberg, and you are wild and precious to me.
© Barbara Mossberg 2013