I reflect that kind is three quarters kin. Our bonds, the actual equation of us, the Mayan saying, you are my other me. Emily Dickinson’s I’m Nobody draws us in to this secret shared identity. We are in this together. We ARE this together. We are the metaphor, that impossibility of connection, the poet’s vision. Dickinson is providing me spiritual leadership during this time of a French which is a world crisis. Our poetry organizations, you, Poetry Slow Down listeners, provide me solace of community as we reel from the revelation that no place is safe. But we have to live as if it is still our beloved world.
THIS IS MY LETTER TO THE WORLD: DARLING YOU SEND ME
DELIVER US, SEND US: as we reflect on our dangerous world and what we have to say to each other, must say to each other. . . Emily Dickinson meets Sam Cooke, as we imagine deliverance, what would deliver us from evil, announce, rescue, release, liberate, escape, achieve relief. We consider the role of letters, literal and those ancient ways of giving our minds to each other; you are here–hear hear! Hello—mes enfants, mes petites choux, my pumpkins, my darlings, for our radio show on letters.
THIS IS MY LETTER TO THE WORLD, writes Emily Dickinson. What can the woman who wrote, I’m Nobody, who are you, are you Nobody too, tell us today, as we reel from the breaking news, heart breaking, shattering news—we will hear about that, in LET’S HEAR IT FOR LETTERS, in her words, a “JOY OF EARTH/DENIED THE GODS,” in poetry inspiring a resurgence of letter writing (you know you need to give and to receive, as we hear letters from Leonard Bernstein, Nicole Kraus, Vincent Van Gogh, Henry James, Billy Collins, Emily Dickinson, Derek Walcott, Charlotte Bronte, Mary Oliver, Maud Gonne (re: W.B. Yeats), Paul Dunbar, James Joyce . . . This might not be the most complicated Poetry Slow Down, in terms of metaphysical theme and preposterous connections that I love to tangle with, but it may well be your favorite. It may lead to your sitting right down to write yourself a letter, truly yours-elf, or writing someone else a letter, and who knows, saving a life, perhaps your own, as the poets say—Mary Oliver’s “the only life you can save.” We’ll listen to the music of Mahler’s Symphony Number 2, Resurrection Symphony, which Leonard Bernstein chose for our national mourning after Kennedy was shot, and the Marseillaise, which people sang while evacuating the Stadium in ParisFriday night after the killings, the music of writing letters of Billy Williams, the Marvelettes, Robert Plant and Alison Krause, Joe Cocker, Simon and Garfunkle, and Sam Cooke. Produced by Mr. Zappa forradiomonterey.com, magic4life, you’re joining me, Professor Barbara Mossberg, for ourPoetrySlowDown, the news we need, the news we heed, the news “without which men die miserably every day,” and oh yes, on that note, of course, the refrigerator door letter of William Carlos Williams, my response in Wave Particle Theory, and notes of Alexander Pope, Charles Olsen, Gertrude Stein, Rilke, Amy Lowell, Ezra Pound, Donald Hall, Sandra Gilbert, D.H. Lawrence, Charles Tripi who has a new book out, Killer Road Ahead, and more.
Mahler, Symphony 2, Resurrection
I’m going to sit right down and write myself a letter – Billy Williams
Please Read the Letter – Robert Plant & Alison Krause (2008)
Why Don’t You Write Me, Simon and Garfunkle
Sincerely, The Maguire Sisters
Leonard Bernstein’s words about Kennedy can apply to the terrorist attack in Paris: In spite of our shock, our shame, and our despair at the diminution of man that follows from this death, we must somehow gather strength for the increase of man, strength to go on striving for those goals he cherished. In mourning him, we must be worthy of him.
. . Learning and Reason: the motto we here tonight must continue to uphold with redoubled tenacity, and must continue, at any price, to make the basis of all our actions.
It is obvious that the grievous nature of our loss is immensely aggravated by the element of violence involved in it. And where does this violence spring from? . . . the seed of that rational intelligence without which our world can no longer survive. This must be the mission of every man of goodwill: to insist, unflaggingly, at risk of becoming a repetitive bore, but to insist on the achievement of a world in which the mind will have triumphed over violence.
We musicians, like everyone else, are numb with sorrow at this murder, and with rage at the senselessness of the crime. But this sorrow and rage will not inflame us to seek retribution; rather they will inflame our art. Our music will never again be quite the same. This will be our reply to violence: to make music more intensely, more beautifully, more devotedly than ever before. And with each note we will honor the spirit of John Kennedy, commemorate his courage, and reaffirm his faith in the Triumph of the Mind.
Vincent van Gogh: I’m always inclined to believe that the best way of knowing [the divine] is to love a great deal. Love that friend, that person, that thing, whatever you like, you’ll be on the right path to knowing more thoroughly, afterwards; that’s what I say to myself. But you must love with a high, serious intimate sympathy, with a will, with intelligence, and you must always seek to know more thoroughly, better, and more.
Now I have a third kind of letter, equally private as van Gogh yet equally public as Bernstein’s, Emily Dickinson’s this is my letter to the world, that never wrote to me—that is, her poetry. I think of Dickinson this morning, and my friends in the Emily Dickinson International Society, which is meeting in Paris this coming summer. Our President Martha Nell Smith quotes Henry James’s letter to his nephew: three things in human life are important: the first is to be kind. The second is to be kind. And the third is to be kind.” Our Board member, Antoine Caize, reflects that the word kind is part of mankind, how we should act towards one another. On that note I reflect that kind is three quarters kin. Our bonds, the actual equation of us, the Mayan saying, you are my other me. Emily Dickinson’s I’m Nobody draws us in to this secret shared identity. We are in this together. We ARE this together. We are the metaphor, that impossibility of connection, the poet’s vision. Dickinson is providing me spiritual leadership during this time of a French which is a world crisis. Our poetry organizations, you, Poetry Slow Down listeners, provide me solace of community as we reel from the revelation that no place is safe. But we have to live as if it is still our beloved world.
© Barbara Mossberg 2015
THE POETRY SLOW DOWN
Dr. Barbara Mossberg
Produced by Mr. Zappa Johns
November 15, 2015