Hello my peoples, an iambic greeting to you this fair morning as we slow down—you know you move too fast—for our Poetry Slow Down, I’m Dr. B, your professor Barbara Mossberg, with our West Coast producer Zappa as in Frank Zappa Johns, on bass, alto, hitting all the notes for us, our music being old-school today and it tells you everything, especially when I tell you where I was yesterday—first, with 36 adults from the University of Oregon Extension Insight Seminar in our final class pondering the meaning of John Muir’s writings for our world today, we’re talking 70 year olds getting up for a two and a half hour class every Saturday morning, and then, a three hour hearing with the Oregon state legislature Ways and Means Committee, consisting of our elected House and Senate representatives from districts all over Oregon, and people had two minutes to state their case, everyone knowing there is a budget shortfall, not enough, not nearly enough, two minutes to describe the plight and fright and fight and might and sight and need of people for whom you care passionately. What can be said in two minutes, to change the world, to save even an iota of it, a person at a time? What can speak to twenty smiling patient public servants who alone are nothing but together are the law and can save or let go the world—children, suffering, elderly, women, trees, air, water, those who put their lives on the line, those let go, locked in, categories of need stacked up, side by side, at the table. I tried to imagine, as I sat in a packed auditorium, what words in two minutes on behalf of any goodness, could suffice? And what does poetry lend to us here? Dum dum dum dum dum (drums). What can it teach us, to reach us; what can be said in two minutes to reach us, rouse us, strengthen our resolve to be brave, to fight for the right, without question or pause, to be willing to march into hell for a heavenly cause—well, you see where I’m going here. We’ll hear The Impossible Dream, from Man of LaMancha, The Cockeyed Optimist, from South Pacific, I Have Confidence, from Sound of Music, You’ll Never Get Away From Me (You Can Climb the Tallest Tree), from Gypsy, and, of course, Elvis singing I Believe. It came to me that what poetry can teach us is how to reach us in a minute or two—even half a minute will do—on behalf of life on earth—poems giving us hope, not just about what matters, but the conviction we have what it takes! We have what it takes! If only we can believe this! So this is a message to you-ou-ou, from me and Bob Marley, a tribute show to legislators and workers on the public’s behalf and whole, to all who have a cause, and isn’t that you, Poetry Slow Down?—because because because because because . . . (from Wizard of Oz)—we have to believe in what is possible, and it makes sense that our music is from this reservoir of defiant prancing and dancing hope—musicals and bounce of resilient spirit, encouraging us to not give up on us . . . so we’ll begin with Emily Dickinson’s I Dwell in Possibility, because we’ve got a lot of work to do, we have to have faith we can do it, with what we have here, hear hear!—but first, we have to have a vision of possibility that insulates us from despair and discouragement at the gate. I imagined our legislators just demoralized and discouraged and overwhelmed by the testimony of great grief and sincere desire to help and be a force for good, and yet—from these two minutes apiece, something can be said and known, flown and blown. What can poems show us and make us believe we can do it, do it better, or all again, or that it’s worth all the struggle? My frame here of this day was my morning with my adults in University Extension, who wrote out one cause they believe in passionately but fear is a hopeless case, and after considering John Muir and his fight on behalf of earth with poetry, what could be imagined . . . isn’t it about imagination? Or, just plain rousing the spirit, a poet believing in us to care? Well, let’s get started, with poems that will encourage us to change the world, to be brave, to not give up on us. We’re all about today the human spirit! And as the crocus in this neck of the woods comes up improbably through the muddy and crusty and icy and mushy earth, we’re thinking of spring, as earth does its thing, and poets notice, and in two minutes apiece, we can deliver a message of resilience, resistance, defiance, never giving up, and hope! Thank you for being HEAR and slowing down, making the morning last—morning, when, as Thoreau says, all intelligences awake. That’s you, and I’m counting on you, to bring your cause to light, and fight, with words, that can change the world. Let’s go then you and I! Let us arise and go then!
THE POETRY SLOW DOWN
With Professor Barbara Mossberg
Produced by Zappa Johns
February 26, 2017
© Barbara Mossberg 2017