All hands on deck! Let’s hear it for our Poetry Slow Down, the news we need, the news we heed, the news “without which men die miserably every day:” so says William Carlos Williams, whose day job was an OB/GYN and on matters of life and death would know . . . reading them is “difficult” and poems are “despised,” he says, and as a poet, he would know that too. But still, we need them, and of course he’s messing with us, of course we love them, and I’ve got to hand it to you, Poetry Slow Down, you have inspired me to revisit the hand, the way poets talk to, and with, and about, the hand. I am Professor Barbara Mossberg, with Producer Sara Hughes, for KRXA 540AM, Think for yourself radio, slowing down for newsy topics like coots and bats, foxes and roosters, moon and Mars and interstellar space, worries and old-school letter-writing. We did a show on the hand once, in a series on the body, hair, feet, eyes, but we won’t wait until the other shoe drops. But on the other hand, there’s more poetry, more to think about. We will consider the other hand, recent and age old poetry on what poets most often use to hold the instrument to write down the poem, stick, stylus, pencil, quill, key. Ursula LeGuin was speaking a few days ago, I loved her Left Hand of Darkness, and I was at a faculty poetry meeting this week at the University of Oregon, pondering Lucille Clifton’sVoices, and hands are huge in her work—astonishing and at the core of her poems. It reminds me of how our brain is said to imagine our body. This will make sense to you—from the brain’s point of view, our hands and our feet are ginormous, and that’s why it hurts so much when we stub our toe or get a splinter. The back, nah, not so much, the limbs, not so much. And two of you wrote me poems that ALSO featured hands. We can say we know things like the back of our hands, as if that’s the thing we know best, but I’m beginning to think we hardly know the back of our hands at all, this amazing geography of flesh, that deserves our gaze, this river of flesh that becomes tributaries that wriggle and wave and pray and grasp and clasp and claw and maw and stir and pound and caress. I can promise you, you will not look at your hand in the same way again after you hear how poets handle the topic of hands, so lend me your ears, fair listener, and let’s hear it for the poetry of hands! Your attention—hand it over, for our show today,
“The Secret Fortune of Joy Is In Our Hands”—Ralph Waldo Emerson
A SHOW ON HANDS ONCE–BUT ON THE OTHER HAND: A HANDY ANTHOLOGY OF POEMS ABOUT HANDS, featuring Pablo Neruda, Timothy Seibles, e.e. cummings, Emily Dickinson, Lucille Clifton, Alicia Ostriker, Shakespeare, Dick Allen, Linda Gregg, Billy Collins, Paul Duncan, Ralph Waldo Emerson, your host Professor Mossberg and more! Music by The Beatles, Neil Diamond, Jewell, and Elvis.
Thank you for joining me! I’ve got to hand it to you–you are a great community.
© Barbara Mossberg 2013