(Yes, you read right!). People might not think of either of these two poets in terms of comedy or even robust spirit–much less joy in being oneself, living this life— an obscure life extinguished after decades of early debilitating illness, and suicide at the age of thirty: these are not happy endings. Nor do their famously fraught lives and poetry suggest froth or frolic. Both Dickinson and Plath are in the news these days in ways that bring up these very issues: how can we understand and represent a poet’s life? As our show considers recent public representations of Emily Dickinson and Sylvia Plath, in the film A Quiet Passion, and the exhibition at the Morgan Library and Museum, and the new exhibition on Plath at the Smithsonian in The National Portrait Gallery, we will ponder (like Dickinson’s Clown) the elements that make a life comic and tragic—and imagine their lives as heroic and epic—in the way of Don Quixote, who takes a sordid and anguished reality and sees it as noble, dignified, beautiful, holy; and epic in general, that elevates and enlarges whatever is small, confined, limited. This might seem strange to apply to someone who wrote, I’m Nobody, who are you? Or about a teenage angst so severe she tries to kill herself: identities that are lacking in esteem . . . yet, in both writers, one mid 19th century, one mid 20th century, we see a celebration of powerful identity of enormous proportion, bursting with a Cyrano de Bergerac like swagger, and convinced of immortality if not also goddess destiny.
Yes: it all begins with sound, with wave, and of course, our voices are ways we connect with each other, our brain waves, becoming voice, and radio waves, and I think it makes sense on the imagery of waves that it’s the Beach Boys who produce Good Vibrations, as it’s all about frequency:
and other things I learn from my students: a celebration for graduation week, AND REFLECTIONS ON POETRY IN THE NEWSFEED AND ON THE SCREEN THIS WEEK—the news we need, the news we heed, the news “without which men die miserably every day.” We are all about living, living happily, every day. Towards that end . . .
Hello, Poetry Slow Down, my peoples, speaking of living happily every day, we’re all about making the morning last! Paul Simon says to slow down, we move too fast, we’ve got to make the morning last. What’s up with morning? We’ll hear from Thoreau, and Mary Oliver, and Tracy Smith, and video game and Eagles and Whitney Houston, and to start us off, a hymn by Eleanor Farjean, sung by Cat Stevens, and the great song from “Hair,” Good Morning Starshine.
In which we hear from Zappa Johns about new-fangled farfalle from the internet’s video games of virtual physics for “interactive fiction” in the digital era (that would be now), including “Car Boys” and BeamNG.drive, the poetry in the news this week of the world’s most daring free solo climb up El Capitan, Bob Dylan’s under-the-wire Nobel Prize lecture on the roots of his lyric balladic contributions to Literature (think Odyssey), Robert Creeley’s meditation on rain (definitely a dab), W.S. Graham on morning (“listen”), and Nate Cameron’s reflections on his own bold climb of poetry beginning with poetry’s El Capitan, the Odyssey. We’re board hanging, putting on morning, making it last, with the Poetry Slow Down.
Further readings on Car Boys:
On Car Boys, Which Changed Everything
Game Realities, McElroys, And The Power Of Meta-Narrative
© Barbara Mossberg 2017
A theory brought to you through blood, sweat, tears, and fears, through the post post-Civil War South, by your own fearful Dr. B, host of our PoetrySlowDown, recreating the experience of John Muir’s post-Civil War 1000 Mile Walk to the Gulf, enduring insects, cutting vines, alligators, and snakes, but failing utterly at starving. The slithery, slimy, stinging, starving and armed realities are a lens that illuminate Muir’s rapturous depictions of wilderness that turned our nation’s mind around in the light of trauma and danger in war-burned and desecrated land, shell-shocked people, and desperate crime. His sojourn through ravaged rural and community life forged his way of engaging wilderness in the Western Sierras. And on the note of converting trauma into poetry, we consider squirrels, as in googling, “squirrels peeing on patio furniture.” (We long ago became resigned to what we had googled as “squirrels eating all the seed in the birdfeeder” and “squirrels eating every last ripe peach”—to which the first google entry had “seven pumper.) There are ways to transform our annoyance. We’ll slow down our indignant heart rates to enjoy what poets know and say about squirrels. From Rilke to Emily Dickinson to Henry David Thoreau to yes, John Muir . . . . and who knew—these creatures have found their way into people’s hearts and if not my hearts, certainly my own poetry.
We’re produced today by Zappa Johns, our fusion man of tech arts and music science, and I’m Professor Barbara Mossberg.
5 plays coast to coast in two days: a view of poetry’s transforming role in civic and personal life. In which we consider The Great Comet of 1812, a musical of Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace, that covers Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables, and Phantom of the Opera, Hairwhich covers Shakespeare’s Hamlet, and Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, which covers Plutarch, and Mark Norman’s and Tom Stoppard’s Shakespeare in Love, which covers Romeo and Juliet and Twelfth Night, and Jiehae Park’sHannah and the Dread Gazebo, following her Peerless which covers Shakespeare’s Macbeth, and a little dessert of pie, in the musical Waitress, with lyrics written and performed by Sara Bareilles with a book by Jessie Nelson (I Am Sam) Inspired by Adrienne Shelly’s beloved film, and we’ll hear “what’s inside” including the trope of “spontaneous poetry.”