Greetings, fellow harvesters of earth’s bounty in mental and literal fields, psychic soil which nourishes and sustains us. I am thrilled to return to you, at this time of traditional harvest celebration, following our recent full moon, the time of the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival, celebrating the summer harvest and the myth of the moon and immortality (think: poetry!) goddess, with mooncakes. So we will have a version of mooncakes, and see what our garden has produced. Our line-up for harvest feast includes reprises from literary spring planting, adoration of weeds, salivating for fruits, dazzling array of vegetarian plenty, and thoughts concerning sustainability of harvest and field, the earth garden. Thank you for joining me, as we honor creation itself.


To the dulcet tones of Neil Young’s “Harvest Moon,” renditions of “Try to Remember (the Warmth of September),” “Shine On Harvest Moon,” Joni Mitchell’s “Woodstock” (“We’ve got to get ourselves back to the garden”), and Donovan’s Mellow Yellow,” we hear MELLOW YELLOW LATE SUMMER/ FALL GARDENS, HARVEST MOON/HARVEST MOOD: POETRY IN EARLY AUTUMN. Gary Snyder’s “For All” sets the warm tone in a medley of mellow yellow September poems, including John Updike’s “September,” Jane Kenyon’s “Coming Home at Twilight in Late Summer,” and the Academy of American Poet’s Poem of the Day Amy Lowell’s “Autumn.” Reading poetry brings my consciousness closer to the land, in a kind of save-the-earth way we have seen with such writers as Henry David Thoreau, John Muir, Gary Snyder, David Brower, and Wendell Berry, a way of seeing that ultimately transforms save-the-earth to save-our-earth. A different way of thinking, from The earth to Our earth. It changes everything. Poetry takes us closer and closer to earth itself– do you remember our shows about getting on our knees, getting down with the soil? Eyeing grass and grasshoppers eye to eye? Can we read Mary Oliver or Walt Whitman without getting grass stains and mud on our minds, when we speak, people saying where have you been? But we look so happy, and then, somehow, there are all these poems about the garden itself. I feel the garden is the ultimate topic: literature and perhaps religion and science and philosophy and culture—from cultivation—all we know– began with our consciousness of the garden, the place we engage with and become co-creators of earth; and the people who are writing about the garden so passionately are poets who are slowing down themselves, so to speak, and I mean in a good way, slowing down to let the brain do its work, the eyes see, the ears hear, the tongue taste, the nose smell, all the senses reporting live from the Earth making it Our Earth. We hear Keats and Blake and Mary Oliver, Mark Strand, Barbara Crooker, Phillip Lopate, Gerard Stern, Gerard Manly Hopkins, Roethke, Charles Wright, Mark Doty, J.D. Salinger, and our show’s third section feature, 100 year old Stanley Kunitz. So our show today is homage to a mellow yellow harvest mood, and I’ve been thinking of some way to acknowledge what people have gone through recently with flood and fire, wind and rain, drought and loss, and it seems that poetry about gardening in a time of slowing down and withering, a time that looks like it’s winding down, invokes a way to think hopefully about what is deep and eternal and immortal in us, and our engagement with this earth. The more we slow down, the more apparent and shining is our earth to the eye, and we give more and more of ourselves to earth. In the conversion of psychic soil, toiling and tilling the earth until it becomes rich loam for creation as our earth, we think of ourselves in this process of season somehow, now, late summer/early autumn. I share with you my journal from a few weeks ago, writing to you in my perch on earth, office of sky and bench on the subject of gardens and meditating on what is edible (including you and me, and I’m thinking this is a good thing, imagining being delicious and good health to earth—and all that makes it “our” earth—the secret of earth’s beauty and vitality?).

The poem I mention in this meditation is “Coho”: I wrote it after a visit to the supermarket and saw wrapped in plastic lying on ice a Coho salmon, eyes fixed, who knows what seeing, saw, so shortly ago in some shining stream or some water with green gleam. And I knew I was going to eat this salmon—I wrote this in my car in the parking lot—


Coho, it isn’t just you.

It’s me, too.

Once you are strength moving through water, silver flow,

Gleaming in sunshine, shining scales, on your way,

And now, I’m eating you, you’re bagged, my afternoon treat,

And while I think of your life, how it ended this way,

I realize that someday

That’s me, too, not eaten perhaps in just this

Way but wouldn’t that be nice, if I were so nutritious,

Of such worth,

If eating me would make some creature lustrous and glow,

If I were good to its health?

Though perhaps in whatever form I become as part of earth

I will feed the waving trees and worm who is feast to some bird,

And when we think of what the river would need

It would be nice to think in such poem this prayer is heard.


We consider Ambrose Bierce’s “The Devil’s Dictionary” definition of “edible,” and as we explore the view of “our” earth, and autumn, we think of the senses that open us to life’s meaning, with Diane Ackerman. We conclude with a short discussion of Stanley Kunitz’s The Wild Braid (which I always think of as “Wild Brain”) on poetry and gardening as inextricable practice and devotion, for life and immortality. And so for now, in these days of late summer, early Fall, be mellow, like earth, find solace in poems, with water and warmth in them, and good nurture, there’s shade and things grow, there’s a pumpkin growing somewhere, and if you take the flowers and sauté them, they make a great pasta sauce, and I’m thinking we’ll have a show on the poetry of autumn feasts including wine, old vine Zin, and the poetry of wine labels, and I’ll share with you some pumpkin recipes that I have dreamed, for edible poems. And meanwhile: if you are on the Central Coast of California, Pacific Grove, the evolved City aka Butterfly Town USA, where I am Poet in Residence, is planning Chautauqua Days, September 30, and I’m contributing a lecture called “Your Inner Butterly: The Power of Words to Change Our World,” at Pacific Grove Library, and I’ll tell you more about it, anon. Soon cafes will be serving pumpkin lattes and on that note, let’s end with a poem of the sweetness of late summer, coming to you wherever you are right now: it’s William Blake, notes of Keats, “To Autumn.” To be continued. Always. The message of Autumn, from our poets. Yours truly, Professor Barbara Mossberg. Please write me at


© Barbara Mossberg 2011


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