The Improbable Role of Poetry Changing People’s Lives and What April Has to Do With It, or, MY LIFE IN TERMS OF A QUEST OF CRUEL AND CRUELER APRILS:– THAT APRIL ‘TUDE and more true confessions. . . THE POETRY SLOW DOWN, Live from the AWP 2016, Association of Writers and Publishers Annual Convention, days and nights of readings of poets from all the journals making way for poetry . . . and an elementary school 56 reunion . . .and John Muir High School 50th reunion . . . driving from hometown to hometown, lifetime to lifetime. We hear the music of Dinah Washington, Simon and Garfunkle, Sam Cooke, Fred Ellis, Ruth Etting, Everly Brothers, Beethoven, and the odes and ‘tundinous paens and plaints by Emily Dickinson, Alicia Ostriker, T.S. Eliot, Wordsworth, the Bible, Walt Whitman, Carol Muske-Dukes, Shelley, Mary Oliver, a Milton sighting, the Sixth Grade Parents of Loma Alta Elementary School of 1960, and we’re going to forgive them, I’m tryin . . .
The proverb “March winds and April showers bring forth May flowers”, first recorded in 1886, or the shorter, trochaic version “April showers bring May flowers” …
Have you ever wondered, O peeps, lending me your ears on this early April day to listen to poetry, think of it, one of the most ancient of human activities on earth—long before electricity or coffee or running water or crossword puzzles, people were sitting on the ground, lounging against a rock, perhaps, a cave wall, flicking off scorpions, listening to the human voice speaking poetry. How it ever came to be, as soon as we discovered and developed our voices, that we slowed down in our lives, dodging immense creatures, withstanding the onslaughts of weather and the tribe across the river or mountain or valley, trying to find something to eat, raw, charred, hopefully not poisonous (think how hungry we had to be to try a lobster, and how long it took to get the technology right in terms of fire, pots, boiling, drawn butter—the cooperation of cows, the figuring out milk and cream and butter, and lemon sauce), and what was the human mind doing? Regarding, considering, gazing at, the stars, the trees, the rocks, the horizon, the clouds, and most of all, it seems, what could be felt from the inside out, what we have come to think of as the matters of the heart, the soul. The mind trying to figure out and express and often praise and wonder at this world of ours, slowing down to use speech in an unusual and original and clever and surprising and often beautiful way, and that is what our show is about, this hour we spend together here, hear hear!, on our Poetry Slow Down, with me, your host Professor Barbara Mossberg, Dr. B, and our Producer Zappa Johns, our Mr. Z, for radiomonterey.com, Magic-4-Life, Solarzar’s vision, podcast at BarbaraMossberg.com, here for you 24/7, and our theme, from Paul Simon’s 59th Street Bridge Song, slow down, you move too fast, you’ve got to make the morning last . . . and the song is all about the poetry that we encounter if we do this . . . hello lamppost, whatcha knowin, I’ve come to watch your flowers growin, aint ya got no rhymes for me . . . he’s the poet, letting the petals shine down on him, open to what the universe has to say, if we but . . . in the words of e.e. cummings, have our eyes awake and our ears opened. So we are hearing the heart-breaking, heart-making, late-breaking, fast-breaking, news of poets on the ground, on the scene, our 360 Anderson Coopers, and our show today celebrates what poets make of April, which just occurred, and for a month that we’ve waited for a long time, through Fall and Winter and early Spring, finally, finally, well, our poets have a little bit of attitude about it, from T.S. Eliot’s accusation of cruelness, the Cruella de Ville of all the months, to Emily Dickinson’s that April, but I have a particular gratitude for the way poets have their way with this month, specifically, it’s the reason I’m here today, your host of a radio show on poetry, it’s the reason I just celebrated the birthday of my husband, and have gotten to know the precious lives of our children, it’s the reason I have my life teaching my amazing students, oh, a finger on the pulse of our world’s mind and heart . . . it’s the reason I have lived in so many of your communities, having the time of my life, literally . . . yes, it’s all due to the way poets talk about April. Really, Dr. B? I know you love the outrageous claims of other poets, like William Carlos Williams, saying his heart rouses to bring us news of poets—difficult and despised poems as they are, yet “men die miserably every day for lack of what is found there”—with all due respect—you love this—Respect noted, and thank you, yes, I do. But I tell you truly, truly, it is the story of a poet describing April that brings me to you today, so let’s get this poetry show started, and we’ll hear poems about April, since that’s what poets do, take on aspects of the human imagination, and April—the month—the whole concept of it—is something the human mind made up. I’ll tell you my story about my quest for cruel Aprils, but let’s begin, where we should always begin, with Emily Dickinson, setting the stage by writing about March . . . it’s been a long, long, time comin . . . .
© Barbara Mossberg 2016
THE POETRY SLOW DOWN
With Professor Barbara Mossberg
Produced by Zappa Johns
Livestreamed noon-1pm Sunday April 3, 2016
podcast 24/7 BarbaraMossberg.com