You’ve seen the headlines–Let’s start, O Poetry Flight of Listeners, with a way to begin the morning anew, morning being whenever you are awake, and now is a good time—from Psalms, This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice, and be glad in it, Psalms 118, I’m Professor Barbara Mossberg for our Poetry Slow Down on radiomonterey.com, with Producer Zappa Johns, who does our podcast, at barbaramossberg.com, with the news we need, the news we heed, the news without which men die miserably every day
William Carlos Williams’ anthem for us in “To Asphodel, That Greeny Flower,” getting the news we need from what he owns as “difficult” and “despised” poems—being glad in the day–sometimes that seems a stretch, inappropriate, right? How dare we rejoice, and be glad in such a day, of slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, as Shakespeare said, yet, sweet are the uses of adversity . . . at one of the most traumatic times in history, with plague and major disease decimating the population and his world. We see eruptions of joy in the Discovery Core team of Lewis and Clark, in spite of what they had experienced, my own take on the fall of Rome in 532 A.D., finding a rooster’s crow in morning a way to make—and save—the day. We see what Rumi, despite the terrors of Genghis Khan, made of his life, and Hafiz a century later, writing out of tumult. We hear from Ralph Ellison’sInvisible Man, the hope and grace he extracts from trauma, how Viet Thanh Nguyen’s The Sympathizer builds on this work. We see how Ta-Nehisi’s Between the World and Meexpresses this idea, and Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton. And if we look around, as the Duke says in As You Like It, when they’re exiled to the woods, at what we’ve got that seems like hardship, that in such “woods,” i.e., trouble, peril, punishment, the trees have tongues, stones have sermons, there are books in the running brooks, and there’s good in everything: such response is amazing effrontery on Shakespeare’s part, writing at a pretty bad time in his nation’s history. In 1606, when Shakespeare is writing, so many people were dying of plague they closed the theatres. Or, as the Meriwether Lewis– Captain Clark team The Corps of Discovery, who went on the Oregon Trail in the 1800s, said in a journal November 8, 1805, on seeing the Pacific Ocean for the first time, after so many hardships, calamities, bad news, encounters with bears and mosquitos, starving:–“ it rained all but 12 days that winter and the explorers’ clothes rotted off their backs” and Lewis was nearly killed by a grizzly bear O! the Joy. Gerard Manley Hopkins, so ill, so miserable, reading his journals is heartbreaking, says, at the end of it all, O Happy Me! So we’re going to hear poems that express this idea, great poems you will want in your day today from two anthologies, The Rag and Bone Shop of the Heart, Robert Bly’s co-edited collection including his translations, and Poems to Make Grown Men Cry. I hope you enjoy the show, and next time, I will reveal to you the actual circumstances in which I wrote this show and delivered it, because, O Poetry Slow Down, I am walking the talk! Yours, in making the morning last, the morning in any form, at any time, we are awake for it, and summon it, like a rooster, with our own crow at seeing light.