Occasion: time (n.), case, juncture, event, instance, incident, occurrence, circumstance, point, spot, position; chance (n.) possibility, opportunity, opening, season, contingency, stage; reason (n.), cause, ground, motive, justification, rationale, explanation, excuse, basis; cause (v.) motivate, induce, prompt, elicit, effect, give rise to, bring about
The news you need, the news you heed, the news of “difficult” and “despised” poems “without which men die miserably every day” (Wm. Carlos Williams)
On the occasion of Earth Day, Shakespeare’s Birthday, John Muir’s Birthday, March for Science, and “everything which is natural which is infinite which is yes” (e.e. cummings)
USE YOUR WORDS: IN A TIME OF TERRORISM, CLIMATE CHANGE, RESISTANCE AND RESILIENCE: HOW POETRY MATTERS; HOW WORDS MATTER—AND HOW EVERYTHING IN MY LIFE TURNS TO—AND INTO—POETRY
Our show this week features poets in the news speaking up and out about the news, writers whose lives are impacted by poets, and the wisdom of poets in how we use our time, marching with our poetic feet. This includes homage to Harold Bloom’s new book on Shakespeare, a reading of Falstaff as life and death—a wonderful review in the NYT by Jeanette Winterson (let us all subscribe to newspapers and journals and keep our citizen eyes and ears on the scene for us), and a great poem by Garcia Lorca, whose life (and death) inspired Pablo Neruda, whose poetry inspired citizenship—see the new film “Neruda”—whom we’ll hear as a paean to earth science, and I’ll share with you what I wrote in response to just one recent terror attack, and the role of poetry in my life as a faculty member trying to be useful in students’ lives, and the role of poetry in education about climate change (it is still legal to use that phrase here)—I know, I know! There is so much to say, when it comes to poetry and its role in our civic culture, consciousness, conscience, courage, community! So let’s get started, let’s get on our way with our poetic feet, and begin with a Spanish poet, whose crime was being beloved as a poet, because . . . words matter, and when people love words that love the earth, and intend to do harm to earth and its creatures, they become enemies, and thus at the beginning of the Spanish Civil War, fascists marched the young, fragile Garcia Lorca to a field, handed him a shovel, and at gunpoint had him dig his own grave, and executed him. Here is a poem he had written, it seems to me now, prophetically—and it frames our love, this earth day, this John Muir birthday, this bard birthday day, for earth through the lens of the human imagination, whose love of earth is inextricable from consciousness of our own complicated humanity . . .
Gacela Of The Dark Death – Poem by Federico García Lorca
I want to sleep the dream of the apples,
to withdraw from the tumult of cemetries.
I want to sleep the dream of that child
who wanted to cut his heart on the high seas.
I don’t want to hear again that the dead do not lose their blood,
that the putrid mouth goes on asking for water.
I don’t want to learn of the tortures of the grass,
nor of the moon with a serpent’s mouth
that labors before dawn.
I want to sleep awhile,
awhile, a minute, a century;
but all must know that I have not died;
that there is a stable of gold in my lips;
that I am the small friend of the West wing;
that I am the intense shadows of my tears.
Cover me at dawn with a veil,
because dawn will throw fistfuls of ants at me,
and wet with hard water my shoes
so that the pincers of the scorpion slide.
For I want to sleep the dream of the apples,
to learn a lament that will cleanse me to earth;
for I want to live with that dark child
who wanted to cut his heart on the high seas.
Hello my peoples, on this occasion of Shakespeare’s birthday, a writer like Homer whose very existence is in doubt, but whom we treasure under this name of all the work produced, its spirit, its life-giving qualities which illuminate our own lives, our paths. Lincoln could not do without Shakespeare, his favorite playwright—I cannot say author, because that was Rabbi Burns, also the fav of John Muir, whose birthday is ALSO today, coinciding with Earth Day, NOT a coincidence, and who also counted Shakespeare as his fav (he read all of Shakespeare), and then along with Earth Day, another Work produced, whose Creator is contested, but whose output is self-evidence, we march, with our poetic feet, for science, which is to my mind inextricable from poetry—how so, Dr. B? –thank you for asking, You are slowing down to make the morning last, to give this moment on earth your presence, I’m Professor Barbara Mossberg, with our Producer on our West Coast, Zappa Johns, fresh from the Star Wars shenanigans in Florida, and we’ll be talking about that in a few shows . . . We’ve morphed as a radio show from Talk-Radio AM with call-ins, which was the best, and when that was sold, to an internet radio show, radiomonterey.com, and when I moved North to Duck Terrain, up at the University of Oregon (go ducks!), teaching eco epic and the green imagination, Einstein and Emerson, John Muir’s Backpack, eco literature, and the like, and the LOVE, we are now in podcast world, and you find us on your devices; yet, it’s the same ancient thing, one voice speaking to you, sharing news, telling stories, in ways we always have around the campfire. Our theme from the beginning was a combination of Paul Simon’s 59th Street Bridge Song, “slow down, you move too fast, you’ve got to make the morning last,” and this idea of showing down to enjoy, appreciate, apprehend, perhaps, what’s there to see, to experience more fully, to be more present in our world, through poetry (“hello lamppost, watcha knowing, come to watch your flowers growin, aint ya got no rhymes for me”)—he’s a poet . . . and the idea of making morning last, a time Henry David Thoreau said is when all intelligences begin, a time of being awake, in the way e.e. cummings will capture what’s at stake in being awake, in his birthday poem we’ll quote OF COURSE today, a scientist’s sonnet that concludes, and now the eyes of my eyes are awake and/now the ears of my ears are opened. He rhymes “awake and” and “opened”—a genius that I still am dazzled by—and you may hear just in these two lines his saying “and now, and now,” focusing us on the “now,” which Paul Simon felt we can do if we slow down with poetry, so that was the first idea of our show; and the second, which you, listeners of 9 years now, every week, know by heart—William Carlos Williams ending to his poem “To Asphodel, That Greeny Flower,” saying, my heart rouses, thinking to bring you news that concerns you and concerns many men . . .it is difficult to get the news from despised poems, yet men die miserably every day for lack of what is found there.” Well that’s ridiculous of course—and you’d expect such a claim of life and death stakes for reading poetry, from a poet—yet, I dutifully point out, he has a case for us to take this idea seriously, because his day job, in Paterson, New Jersey, is a physician; so I imagine him with blood on his hands, going home to make a house call on himself at the end of the day, writing his poems on prescription pads (he really did this), Rx for healing, for resilience, for staying alive
Soo our theme is taking the news, the headline news, top of the hour news, the late-breaking, fast-breaking, heart-breaking news—and we’re marching on our poetic feet today for the worldwide March for Science, and earth day, and John Muir’s birthday, and Shakespeare’s birthday, and in e.e. cummings’ words “the birth day of life and love and wings and the gay great happening illimitably earth.”
All over the world people have been gathering, across time zones and borders, to stand together on behalf of science, taking seriously what people since the beginning of human time have discovered through the arc of wonder and respect for not knowing, for learning what we thought was true is not true, for figuring out things just from thinking about and observing stars and rocks and tides and moon and sun and trees and river floods, a kind of patience in seeing patterns over time, patterns, like poetry, rhythms like tide and the human heart, and throb of rain, seeing connections, the metaphor that says this is not LIKE that, this IS that, they are the SAME, as in, we are stardust
So it is that on this day of citizens celebrating science, poets gather, as in New York with a poet we’ve featured on our show, Jane Hirschfield, and poets on banners at the Lincoln Center, W.S. Merwin, Gary Snyder, and the like, and love . . . and Lincoln whose love of poetry informed his political actions on behalf of earth and each other . . . it’s all equation elation, e=mc2, a poem after all . . . .
© Barbara Mossberg 2017