Starting off January right, the news we need, the news we heed, the news without which “men die miserably every day—“

Dr. Barbara Mossberg
Produced by Sara Hughes
January 12, 2014
© Barbara Mossberg 2014
Starting off January right, the news we need, the news we heed, the news without which “men die miserably every day—“ so says Doctor W.C. Williams—Poetry! Our last week’s show topic featuring Rafael Campo’s hospital poetry turned out to be the topic on the news this week in a PBS news hour feature on the relationship between medicine, healing, and poetry– also featuring Rafael Campo, and we will continue this theme of transformational poetry and healing and hope—the difficult and despised poems that actual doctor William Carlos Williams calls the news without which men die miserably every day—poetry as Rx taking on what is hard, as we ponder what poetry is and why it matters to our society . . . Poetry has been in the news a lot, stories you send me, neuroscience of poetry’s benefits to the brain, the writer Sue Monk Kidd—who wrote The Secret Life of Bees with a new book out, saying she begins every morning with a poem; and this week in the news is the finding among an international team of scientists that carnivores, animals weighing over 33 pounds, are in danger of extinction worldwide. Scientists are wondering how do we get people to see how vital these critters are to our lives, the actual life of our planet? Lions and tigers and bears oh my! And all the rest—heading absolutely to extinction—how do we get people to want to do what is possible and necessary to save them, including those we fear and hunt and want out of the way, like wolves. . . . What does poetry have to do with this global crisis? Ah, well that you ask O Poetry Slow Down! Indeed! Clamp clampity clampity—that is the sound of poetry like an elephant discerning her baby is in trouble charging across the plains—poetry—a way of seeing and comprehending that can transform how we think—and on that note, ASLO in the news, I’m just sayin, documentary evidence of an elephant drawing a picture of itself with its trunk—yes—we’ll put a link of it on our Poetry Slow Down website at
It’s the pachyderm Picasso! Elephant paints amazing self-portraits you’ll never forget
So we’re going to look at how poetry expresses qualities of carnivores and big animals, beginning with the work of Vicki Hearn in Adam’s Task, a book that you are going to either get from me or be asked to read within two weeks of meeting me or the second conversation whichever comes first. I was so moved when I first read her on dogs and horses that I cried. This book is a tear-jerker, why? I think because of its amazing empathy and compassion for creatures, whose suffering and noble efforts to be partners with us is inspiring and heart-breaking and heart-making. Her whole point is that how we talk about animals—or anything—determines our capacity to know and understand and respect and value them—or not—and her point is that contrary to a lot of calls in the science community for objective description, this so-called objectivity is actually leading to inaccurate science, fostering a lack of ability to perceive what is really going on—that if we talked differently, we would be able to SEE what really is the case, so I quote her. Then we will look at examples of poetry that bring to consciousness these creatures, seeding the soil for the case that can be made in our civic minds and hearts for saving them. More anon—tune in Sunday Noon-1 pm, KRXA 540AM, livestreamed, or podcast at
© Barbara Mossberg 2014

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