Backstage at The Poetry Slow Down

Today we go backstage with your radio host to see behind the scenes of The Poetry Slow Down, the reading of the day’s mail with poems sent in by listeners, and how that in turns impacts—okay, deliciously detours– the plans for the week’s show! Our show became Slate Surprise: Dear De-tours de Force and Waylays and Other Adventures of Flight. Talk about a slow down! What happened was in the middle of deadlines I could not resist reading a listener’s poem right then and there, and two hours later was still noodling its intricacies: it was called Junco, and then I had to read all about Juncos and consider the language of bird studies, and my ignorance of birds beyond poems about birds, and thinking about those poems led to a joyous review of poems of birds, and birds’ meaning to us, all inspired by how one person’s 26-word poem makes us think about our world. Well then: one iconic poem after another (think: falcons, swans, blackbirds, albatross, eagles, kingfisher, heron, wren . . . Professor Mossberg, is there a quiz? Of course) and the show quickly has become a two-part series, because I couldn’t leave out this poem or that poem, and even so, these two shows are only a sampling of great poems on birds which you can only see and only hear if you  . . . slow down. Today’s show features Poe’s raven, Percy Bysshe Shelley’s skylark, William Carlos Williams’ chickens, Gertrude Stein’s pigeons, James Wright’s chickenhawk, Charles Wright’s bird hour, Robert Duncan’s falconress, Linda Hogan’s heron, Timothy Steele’s “In the Memphis Airport”-little warbler, Mary Oliver’s snowgeese, and my “Fat Lady Flying,” all invoked by Charles Tripi’s junco-just-now. So keep those poems and comments coming to Music, Leonard Cohen’s “Bird on the Wire,” Mozart’s Magic Flute, Anne Murray’s “Snowbird,” Bob Marley’s “Don’t Worry,” Simon and Garfunkle’s “Bridge Over Troubled Waters.” This show is dedicated to my mother, at whose bedside it is broadcast.

Stay tuned: mystery poet to be announced in next show, November 21, 2010; word for Poetry Slow Down listening community (a “flight” of listeners; an “under-standing” of listeners—your ideas?); performances by Professor Mossberg on Emily Dickinson (Central Coast: December 9, Cherry Center for the Arts, December 10, Pacific Grove Library; Los Angeles, December 5, Fair Oaks Regency); poems by Coleridge, Keats, Hopkins, John Haines, Jennifer K. Sweeney, Kay Ryan, Wallace Stevens, Emily Dickinson, Paul Laurence Dunbar, Linda Gregg, John Muir, your host Professor Mossberg, Mary Oliver, Edmund Waller, Blake, Shakespeare, Tennyson, and more!

Hear how form holds rhyme’s sweeping cape in “The Raven,” how Timothy Steele’s rhymes rock you; how our task is to “to love what is lovely, and will not last” (Oliver); how birds are seen thirteen, twenty, many ways that express the most ancient elements of the human journey, beginning with The Sphinx.

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