THE POETRY SLOW DOWN
Dr. Barbara Mossberg
Produced by Sara Hughes
November 2, 2014
© Barbara Mossberg 2014
AS THE EARTH TURNS, A GAME CHANGER
OR, THE EPIC LENS: A LOOK AT OUR EARLIEST POETRY THROUGH THE LENS OF STUDENTS TODAY AND ON THAT NOTE, SPEAKING OF IMMORTAL TRIUMPH, OF COURSE WALT WHITMAN AND HIS UNDYING SPIRIT ALIVE AGAIN TODAY
In which we gaze at the Sumerian game-changer Gilgamesh, pause at Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey, note Beowulf, and then stop with Lauren Gunderson’s statement taking Walt Whitman literally in his “Leaves of Grass,” in her new play I and You. We go from tragedy to a different way to think about tragedy, and possibility, and hope. There’s nothing like spending a November day with Whitman and slowed down poetry.
When we turn back our clocks and slow down, as earth does its turn down, its down-sizing, which looks, we can’t help thinking, so glorious, so dazzling, as leaves turn yellow and red and purple and gold, and wet from night rain shine in morning light, we see them fall, flutter, float, and its beauty stops us in our tracks; when we slow down, poetry comes to the fore, as poets have always taken this time, their time, our time, to be deeply astonished, humbly overcome, by earth’s turning in for the season; and in such time, between the orange of Halloween and the orange of Thanksgiving, of our love of pumpkins, honestly, isn’t it because they are so plump, so round, so bulbous, we can’t help it, we love that shape, how this perky braveness squats on the ground; in such time, we think of poetry itself, when people slowed down to record what it means to live here on earth, to look around, and reflect on what we see. I’m thinking of this, Poetry Slow Down, because in the last weeks I have been reading the world’s oldest poetry with students, freshmen in the honors college of University of Oregon Go Ducks, and law students in the UO law school’s environmental law MA program, and through their eyes, this poetry is a wake-up call, a sobering and amazing revelation about what we knew about earth when we first started recording it 5000 years ago, and telling ourselves about it even longer, who knows . . . so today, Poetry Slow Down, we’re looking at epic ideas, how the human mind saw our shenanigans on earth, thousands of years ago, in Gilgamesh, The Iliad and the Odyssey, Beowulf, and that’s just the beginning . . . so join me, and let’s hear it for what’s going on in these campfire epic poems first sung to each other, about war and peace, and parents and children, men and women, and earth itself . . . and how these earliest poems inform our headlines today, and our environmental history and laws, and even each of our own stories of how we came to be and what we mean and what is at stake in each of our lives . . .
© Barbara Mossberg 2014