WHEN TERRORISM THREATENS OUR TRUST IN OUR WORLD—WE LOOK IN POETRY FOR A WORLD WE CAN TRUST, beginning with Spine Poetry. We’ll not only learn about spine poetry (you have your own right now) but how it can give us spine, have our back, hand it to us, nurture our hearts, and restore our sense of trust in our world. Our Poetry Slow Down is produced by Zappa Johns, out here on the West Coast, and I’m our host, in Eugene, Oregon, Track Capital of the World, by which we all know means the place of poetic feet, go Ducks!–with the news we need, the news we heed, the news without which men die miserably every day . . . in other words, news we can trust to be kind.
Poets have lived in our world since our first moments of human consciousness—its sorrows and joys . . . voices of conscience in how we treat each other and our world, and how to read a world that Shakespeare described with a message to us in times of stress and threat: “tongues in trees, books in the running brooks, sermons in stones, and good in everything.” TO RESTORE OUR TRUST IN OUR WORLD, WORDS WE CAN BELIEVE.
Let’s begin with spine poetry: I have piled up on my desk a set of books I’m reading for us, and their titles are piled up, like steps, like lines, and they form a poem: in preparation for this show, I have these great books! Neruda, Mary Oliver, books my students have brought me, the just-announced award winners from Tupelo Press Sunken Garden Chapbook Poetry Prize by Judge Maggie Smith, so here’s the line up, so to speak, of titles! Ordinary Misfortunes, A Brief Hysteria, In Error, Woman Prime, The Pocket Oracle, A System of Wanting, From the Book of Wind and Brass, In America, The Hurry Up and the Wait, What Kind of Omen Am I, The Certainty of Others, The Crossing Over, Pin Pricks in the Vault of Heaven, The Mourners Forget What Funeral They Are At, Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death, To Dance on Caskets, This Changes Everything, Unleashing the Power of Resurrection in Your Life, Hope in the Dark: Untold Histories, Wild Possibilities. Now your spine poem could be three books, perhaps a haiku, or 14, for a sonnet. Send me yours! firstname.lastname@example.org, or email@example.com, or comment on our Facebook page that our Producer Zappa Johns keeps . . The Poetry Slow Down. The titles take on a life of their own, mingle with other titles, and make up a meaning. With these titles I have read us of my spine book du jour, you can see certain patterns in the grain . . . this is a time of great searching and sensing about what will befall us, efforts to find hope . . . So pile up your favorite books on their side, and read them as lines in a poem, a ladder of lines. That is your own poem, the literal soundtrack of your life, what’s nourishing your brain.
I have been thinking of you, and your response to our show last week on why to support NEH, NEA, PBS, NPR, these alphabets of agencies that promote artists bringing us the word . . . I began to talk about my work as an advocate of humanities education, and the actual role of poetry in my life, after all, and what it meant to me to have poetry in my life as my mother died . . . I have been sharing some of this with Eugene, Oregon’s Round Table, civic leaders getting together literally around round tables . . . and my students, in eco literature, earth ambassadors writing and gathering words about earth and how and why to love it, what words matter! When There Are No Words, There’s Poetry: The Unlikely Case for How Poetry Matters in Real Life and I will talk to you about my life as a poet as I have not been able to share before, as a reader of poems, as a writer of poems, and what difference it makes. Mary Oliver said, Pay attention. Be amazed. Tell about it. We have all taken that to heart, so! And we’re going to be celebrating Derek Walcott, whose words began our show, and I want to tell you about a shenanigans coming up—why I’m going to be in Italy next week at this time, and it’s for a good cause. It’s about words. How words matter for the hardest things in life. My spine poetry for it is Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin, and Cervantes’ Don Quixote, and Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables, how the novel offers novel age-old solutions to the most critical world problems, through the lens of poetry. InClaritas is the organization that is rooted in psychology and transformation, and we’ll ruminate today on poems that wake us, shake us, make us, take us to brave new lives. As in, Rumi. . . . .
© Barbara Mossberg 2017