I’ll admit some of them run over a thousand pages. Some are translated from Sumerian on clay tablets. Some are from Spanish, Greek, French, olde English, and quirky as the day is long. Poetry, prose, drama, spoken, written, sung, they have messages for us for how we live our daily lives. I’m reporting to you live from Washington, D.C., fresh from thinking about my students at the Clark Honors College, University of Oregon, and through their eyes, the meaning of classics lights our world, and heals the heart, and gives us hope. Is that all, Dr. B? No, it is not. Through the eyes of our next leaders of society, classic texts are good nutrition, vegan, organic, and gluten free. Thank you joining in!
From November, 2015:
I reflect that kind is three quarters kin. Our bonds, the actual equation of us, the Mayan saying, you are my other me. Emily Dickinson’s I’m Nobody draws us in to this secret shared identity. We are in this together. We ARE this together. We are the metaphor, that impossibility of connection, the poet’s vision. Dickinson is providing me spiritual leadership during this time of a French which is a world crisis. Our poetry organizations, you, Poetry Slow Down listeners, provide me solace of community as we reel from the revelation that no place is safe. But we have to live as if it is still our beloved world.
I aimed my pebble, but myself
Was all the one that fell.
Was it Goliath was too large, Or only I too small?
The poetry shoe of poetic feet in the headline news, late-breaking, fate-making, heart-breaking, heart-shaking, the news of “despised” and “difficult” poems “without which men die miserably every day” (Dr. William Carlos Williams). The news this week brings to the fore poetic language that challenges us to think more wisely—in terms of fairness, kindness, humanity. It’s not easy to think this way: Einstein calls for empathy and compassion, and it’s e=mc2, rocket science. Nor to speak up, out, for, against. To return to Dickinson, whom we don’t usually associate with putting herself out there in the public sphere, of course she did, boldly, altogether self-consciously, knowing what was at stake: committing oneself to words on paper is to enter the fray, engage with one’s times and all times, and add energy to the public discourse. It doesn’t always end well, at least in the short term. Dickinson herself, still unpublished and unknown, with no voice in her world, says,
They shut me up in Prose –
As when a little Girl
They put me in the Closet –
THE RADIO SHOE: Poetic footwork in the POETRY SLOW DOWN, with Professor Barbara Mossberg (“no place safe from poetry”), in which the news of poetry is a civic force of community building and health, and general happiness, and world peace, and this IS rocket science. So get your show shoes on, knock your socks off, and get a move on, those poetic feet slowing down (you know you move too fast!)for the news you need, the news you heed, the news “without which men die miserably every day” (Dr. William Carlos Williams, who should know). We’re talking about heroes of the earth today, and what angels and poets have to do with it.
And/or, You Are My Sunshine as Rocket Science: the Physics of Campfire Wisdom, with thanks to Thomas Friedman for “Stempathy,” and my contribution to the case for learning the world needs now, now more than ever: in calling for empathy, as scientists do, we see the role of poetry, and it’s all “equation elation:” metaphor as Rx to save the world. (Professor Sphinx told us that long ago) We’ll hear guest artists Einstein, Richard Feynman, John Steinbeck, Goethe, John Muir, Story Musgrave (featured in next show), Albert Schweitzer, Emily Dickinson, Dalai Lama, Buddha, Confucius, Rachel Carson, and Mary Oliver, and the best poem, by Pablo Neruda, Sonnet 16, that sums it all up, love, sunshine, earth, you.
© Barbara Mossberg 2017
“Today when persimmons ripen,” as Jane Hirshfield begins us, we’re slowing down—you know you move too fast—in this slowed time of year, where trees are strutting their structural moxie, revealed when their leaves take flight, sing the song of gravity, and reveal the gold orange and red and yellow reality in them all along, a way that poetry slows us down to express the fall foliage colors, the way a poem can turn us into what we have been all along—as Rumi puts this idea, “lovers don’t finally meet somewhere. They’re in each other all along.” And the Mayan saying, You are the other me–perhaps this YOU is the poem in which we recognize what’s amazing, what’s to love . . . as D.H. Lawrence says in a poem called Know Deeply, Know Thyself More Deeply. Slowing down with poetry reveals a beauty, a hope, a redeeming knowledge that’s been there, In there, all along. So today, we’re going savor how a poem changes it up, saves the day, revealing not only the changing leaves but the beautiful trunk and limbs in us, as our leaves leave and turn—shimmering, gleaming, luminous moving and heart-shaking poems by Wendell Berry in his book Given, Susan Laughter Meyers in her My Dear, Dear Staggergrass, Albert Goldbarth, in Saving Lives, Charles Wright, in Bye and Bye, and poems by our own Charles Tripi, Pablo Neruda, Garcia Lorca, D.H. Lawrence, David Whyte, Fran Landesman, Shakespeare, Robert Bly, Mary Oliver, and what words we give our children, Maurice Sendak’s newly re-issued 1956 book, Kenny’s Window, and Leo Lionni’s profile of the poet in his Frederick . . . So ears, hears the story, and thank you for joining me, Professor Barbara Mossberg*
© Barbara Mossberg 2013
And talk about poetry we will, with Aimee Nezhukumatathil, Ada Limon, Ross Gay, and Emily Dickinson. She started it, really: she said “Nobody knows this little rose.” Now we know Nobody: Odysseus’ cunning way to describe himself when he escapes the Cyclops, Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen, and Emily Dickinson’s anthem poem, I’m Nobody, a startling messing with our minds, since you can’t say you’re nobody, to say, I am, is to be somebody, and then to say you’re nobody is to completely undercut that in existential shenanigans. You can’t say you are not. Except, you can.