Making an End: On Doing It Right: The Poetry Way
WRAPPING IT UP: POETRY AS PRESENT, A GIFT IN OUR LIVES “WITHOUT WHICH MEN DIE MISERABLY EVERY DAY” (“To Asphodel, That Greeny Flower,” William Carlos Williams)—a wrap and rap of the New Year, for getting us in the mood for New Year’s Eve, in which we let poetry work its magic on us, and consider the folly of any curriculum that does not include poetry as essential practical knowledge for going forward with our own lives and our country’s and world’s and earth’s, to put it mildly:
We pause for standards devised in 45 states that mandate poetry be restricted in schools in a nonfiction to literature and poetry ratio of 70 to 30, how we advertise (and buy) cars, how we end a year like a novel, considering great endings like On the Road and The Great Gatsby, how we give presents, and what this all says about what poetry is, why it matters in our lives as present and presence, and other ways to end our year with a flourish, to keep on keeping on.
Welcome to our Poetry Slow Down, the news you need, the news you heed, the news without which men die miserably every day(Wm. C. Williams), I’m Dr. B, aka Professor Barbara Mossberg, your host, with producer Zappa Johns, how are you holding up, these days of holidays, build up and stress and let down, just like a wave, the pulls on us like tides here on earth, swept back and forth, tugged by the moon’s gravity, are we like that too with our holidays and end of year—pulled every which way up and down, back and forth, by our culture’s ideas of what we should be thinking and doing, festively, wish lists, new years resolutions, listen, you know January once didn’t even exist as a month, let alone, January 1 and the so-called New Year, that was just made up, this time of year was considered so useless that after the dark days of December—at least here on the northern hemisphere—that people just laid low until spring, the daffodils and crocus and rivers melting and mud, and this was just a time of pause of no-time where earth collects itself for the new bursts of life, storing energy, but then, and it was a political decision, the calendar was redrawn and it was deemed a month and a New Year, and all of a sudden, here we are dealing with a year’s end, tax year ending, and looming new year to start living right, once and for all, and making plans for how to spend New Years Eve, and let us not watch the ball fall, what kinds of wall flowers are we, watching other people in hats and coats and shivering and shining and shouting faces watching a glittery ball fall, while we sit in our living rooms, no, we can do better, have a celebration our way, with old acquaintances, as we grow old and bold, slow down, and think about poetry . . shining poetry for wrapping a year with flourish and metaphoric bows and rousing ourselves to get on the road again of time, that’s what we need today, respite and rousing . . . Our show today is called:
WRAPPING IT UP: POETRY AS PRESENT, A GIFT IN OUR LIVES “WITHOUT WHICH MEN DIE MISERABLY EVERY DAY” (“To Asphodel, That Greeny Flower,” William Carlos Williams)—a wrap and rap in which we consider the new core curriculum standards devised in 45 states that mandate poetry be restricted in schools in a nonfiction to literature and poetry ratio of 70 to 30, how we advertise (and buy) cars, how we end novels from On the Road to The Great Gatsby to Invisible Man to Catcher in the Rye, how we give presents, and what this all says about what poetry is, why it matters in our lives as present and presence, and other ways to end our year with a flourish, to keep on keeping on, and I’ve been thinking about poetry, its importance to us, in such times, it’s in the news today, in the editorials, in the reviews, oh Poetry Slow Down, serious news, I’ve been thinking about just what poetry is, why you and I are listening to it today, what it means to our society, and when our family was opening presents this past week, I was thinking about how it is, why it is, that we wrap presents— how poetry is on the surface like a wrapped present . . . we make or buy or find a thing, and the whole deal with a birthday, a gift-giving occasion, is not just to give this present: the way we know it is a present, give and receive it, is that it is wrapped, decorated—language that is more than “just the facts ma’am,” language that makes us hear and see and amazes us, and yet, it isn’t like a present, because the meaning is inseparable from the language that is itself so decorative. It is the thing in a box, enclosed in paper, and then wrapped in beautiful paper, shiny, colorful, and not only that, but then encircled with a bow! The poem is the whole thing! So let’s begin with a marvelous poem in which to conclude our year and prepare ourselves for celebrating the New Year, and then see what there is to be lost, in the crisis discussed in papers across the country, for example, by The Los Angeles Times editors in the Los Angeles and US curriculum of what we teach in the high schools—and the poem I have chosen for us is by Billy Collins, so I want you to close your eyes, and wherever you are right now, bundled up, from the rain and ice and cold and dark, and leftovers, and work needing to be done, and crumbs on the counter, emails to be read, bills to be paid, a faucet to fix, thank you notes to write, a school paper that’s due, all right, overdue, I’m going to take you away, to someplace inside your mind that is a place of beauty, and solace, and respite, someplace peaceful, where you can hear yourself think, where you can out the philosopher in yourself.
Bolivian President Evo Morales on the significance of the Mayan calendar:
“And I would like to say that according to the Mayan Calendar the 21st of December marks the end of the time and the beginning of no-time. It is the end of the Macha & the beginning of the Pacha. It is the end of selfishness & the beginning of brotherhood. It is the end of individualism & the beginning of collectivism… the 21st of December this year. The end of lies & the beginning of truth. It is the end of sadness & the beginning of joy. It is the end of division & the beginning of unity.”
― Evo Morales, President of Bolivia to the UN General Assembly, 67th Session, 2012
and we’ll hear in our New Year toolkit for January 1:
TOWARDS WHAT END?
@HOGMANY: LET THE WILD RUMPUS START—
BUT FIRST, WE’VE GOT TO SET IT UP RIGHT. AND IT WAS STILL HOT: IN MY END IS MY BEGINNING: IN POEMS’ ENDINGS WE CONSIDER ENDS OF POETRY, SLOW DOWN TO GATHER OURSELVES FOR CARRYING ON, SO SKIDAMARINK A DINK A DINK AT THE POETRY SLOW DOWN WITH Dr. B, PROFESSOR BARBARA MOSSBERG
As the year slows down to an end, we’ll consider how poems end, and what we may learn about ways to usher out the old and prepare for the new, musing on endings from ancient epic to Maurice Sendak, sonnets and quatrains, icon poems, lovely poems, whose purpose may be revealed in the endings as we reason how to carry on. We’ll hear it for Bobby Burns, Dorothy Parker, Shakespeare, William Stafford, Tennyson, Homer, Dickinson, Stanley Kunitz, Thoreau, Mark Strand, Elizabeth Bishop, oh, you know which one–, Rumi, Naomi Shahib Nye, James Wright, Mary Oliver, Nikki Giovanni, T.S. Eliot, Robert Frost, Mark Doty, Billy Collins, Rilke, and more . . . alchemists looking for talent that can heat up and change . . . that’s you! Here! Hear hear!
© Barbara Mossberg 2016