THE POETRY SLOW DOWN
Dr. Barbara Mossberg
Produced by Sara Hughes
April 27, 2014
© Barbara Mossberg 2014
APRIL IS THE CRUELEST MONTH . . . STIRRING DULL ROOTS OUT OF THE SPRING RAIN . .THAT APRIL! LOCK THE DOOR! BUT WHO CAN STOP THE RAIN? AND WHO WOULD WANT TO?
Ahoy Pluviophiles! Aka Poetry Slow Down!, I’m singing in the rain, heralded by T.S. Eliot’s “The Wasteland” and Emily Dickinson’s “Dear March,” and Credence Clearwater Revival, we are wrapping up April with ribbons of downpours, we’ve had shows on gardens and resurrection and we can’t leave this month of Spring without April showers, a show on RAIN, In honor of a birthday of a certain sister LorRAINe, an auspicious name, of glisten and drench, of splash and dash–ing to get out from under it, and a certain daughter Sophia’s birthday whose signature is love of rain, and you’ve got to love it-it’s raining as I speak— :
Yes, the scourge of picnics. But we don’t see the trees carrying on. We don’t see squirrels putting up umbrellas and fraught shenanigans getting out from under. There are rain-caused floods—Noah’s in the news, although the rain in Spain stays mainly in the plain, but mainly rain is missed when it doesn’t come, and complained about when it does. Except, if you’ll come with me right now, we’re going to have our cake and eat it too, stay dry in a poem where it rains in the lines, and hear what poets make of rain, and what we mean by “making it rain,” and “rain on . . . “ and other ways of thinking about rain. We’re on KRXA 540AM, Producer Sara Hughes in our studio in Sand City, and podcast at BarbaraMossberg.com, you know you think rain is romantic, think of your favorite movies, are your favorite scenes in the rain? Yes, singing in the rain, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, cat! Cat!, Umbrellas of Cherbourg, take out your handkerchiefs, all you have to do to make a scene melodramatic is show some rain on faces, radiant and uplifted, crying, so close your eyes now, and listen to the music of the falling rain, in poetry’s patter . . . When we consider poetry about rain, we are hearing the rhythmic patter of minds so conscious of our earth habitat, trying so deliberately to be here on earth, present, as we say, rain or shine . . .
Rain and poetry are connected in our human mind. Pitter patter, pitter patter, drip drip, drip drop, a rhythm. Who knows when the connection was made between rain and crops, earth and fertility, lushness and green. It was there in Homer, the Bible, mythology from around the world, and we’ll hear poetry’s feet sploshing in Shakespeare, Rumi, Hafiz, Neruda, Mary Oliver, Walt Whitman, Sophia Mossberg, Wendell Berry, Claribel Alegria, Don Paterson, Holly Iglesias, Agha Shahid Ali, e.e. cummings, Gary Snyder, K.D. Laing, yours truly, as it turns out, Shel Silverstein, Edward Thomas, Lance Henson covering a Cheyenne song, Mark Strand, Elizabeth Bishop, Barbara Kingsolver, Garth Stein, Maria Semple, Camille Dungy, so put boots on your poetic feet, as we listen to the music of the falling rain, close your eyes, and we’ll begin . . .
It rains in Homer in The Iliad and Odyssey, and rain is a godsend:
From there we sailed with heavy hearts, and came to the land of the Cyclopes, a lawless, aggressive people, who never lift their hands to plant or plough, but rely on the immortal gods. Wheat, barley, and vines with their richly clustered grapes, grow there without ploughing or sowing, and rain from Zeus makes them flourish.
Meanwhile, as we hear passionate love poems we realize that our human mind cannot think long without rain coming in to the picture. Rain is go-to imagery for how things are, how things live and thrive, how we deal with our fate (remember the Itsy Bitsy Spider from our last show on resurrection?), what we’re given, and how we value it, what meaning we give to this action of the universe, in which sky and air itself is transformed from a silent habitat of unseen air into a band, a symphony, and whether you think it’s rapping or rock or symphony, noisy or sublime, pelting or gentle, punishing or redemptive, it’s clear that it is inextricable from how we think and see our lives. I’ve always been struck that left to his own devices, the wise Fool in Shakespeare, who interacts with the audience, in an autobiographical ballad sees in rain a cosmic starring role; we’re going to begin and end with the rain on the Fool and the Fool on rain . . .
© Barbara Mossberg 2014