I shall grow old but never lose life’s zest, Because the road’s last turn will be the best.—Henry Van Dyke
“THE DIFFERENCE MADE ME BOLD:” CELEBRATING EMILY DICKINSON’S LIFE OF SERVICE, IN HONOR OF HER 186 BIRTHDAY, THE MEANING SHARING ONE’S LIFE CAN MAKE TO THE SPIRIT WITH WHICH WE EACH GO FORTH BOLDLY WHERE NO ONE HAS BEEN BEFORE, WITH THE LIKES OF MAY SARTON, RUTH STONE, TILLIE OLSEN, WENDY BARKER, SANDRA GILBERT, LINDA GREGG, LUCLILLE CLIFTON, DEB CASEY, AND NOT ONLY FEISTY LADIES INCLUDING THE SPHINX BUT THE GUYS, DANTE, ELIOT, GERALD STERN, STANLEY KUNITZ, DONALD HALL, W.S. MERWIN, JAMES WRIGHT, CHARLES GIBILTERRA, AND CHARLES TRIPI, CHRISTIAN WIMAN, WITH SPECIAL TRIBUTES TO JACK GILBERT AND LAWRENCE FERLINGHETTI
Welcome to our Poetry Slow Down, here at barbaramossberg.com with our Team Zappa Johns, I’m Professor Barbara Mossberg, radio waving high finger fiving to you, we’re celebrating Emily Dickinson’s birthday, that feisty little troublemaker, so-called nobody, who has changed my life, and in her honor we’re thinking of poems to grow old and bold by, no matter what our age, poets encouraging us from the vantage of age, the voice of three legs in the afternoon, to not go gently into that good night, as Dylan Thomas encouraged his father in the poem of that name, “do not go gently into that good night, rage, rage, against the dying of the light!”, and T.S. Eliot, Old Possum himself, obsessed with growing old—in The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, he has his narrator contemplate the dilemma on how to go on with our lives, when one is becoming decrepit, in his words, ridiculous, laughed at, pitied, hair growing thin, a bald spot in the middle of my hair, so demoralized, “I grow old, I grow old, I shall wear my trousers rolled, do I dare to eat a peach? Do I dare disturb the universe? How should I presume? I shall wear white flannel trousers and walk upon the beach . . . I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each, I do not think they will sing to me,” but when he’s writing this, he’s in his twenties . . . much later on he’s a wise man, so how in fact do poets write when they ARE losing hair and teeth, wits and minds, everything, in Shakespeare’s words—sans eyes, sans teeth, sans hair, also written in his twenties, so Prufrock saying the mermaids will not sing to him, to which the poet May Sarton, over seventy, replies in her novel, Mrs. Stevens Hears the Mermaids Singing—hear, hear, Mrs. Stevens, go, Mrs. Stevens! . . . Viva.
© Barbara Mossberg 2016