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But Dr. B! Surely you’re kidding! We’re sitting here—we took out the time– listening to a POETRY show on the radio today, not a football game! Do you KNOW us? What, you think we’re drinking beer and eating chips? This is wine time, we’re in the parlor, by the fire, we’ve got Coltrane and Joni Mitchell on!

Now hold on, hold on, I’m just sayin, loyal listener, who lends me your ears faithfully for an hour slowed down, slowed down for poetry, that mental ab work of the mind, sweeping right and left brain spheres, lyric-driven metaphors, that make us think and recall and reflect and feel connected to each other, humanity over time and space, noble, flawed, caring, striving, failing tragically, prevailing—to strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield, in Tennyson’s words, . . .is not –the antithesis—football!

Well Dr. B, I heard something there, striving, failing tragically, prevailing, that seems a little like football . . . the spirit of not yielding . . .

Well and it may be so, O Poetry Slow Down, I’m thinking, as I read my student papers about The Odyssey, as they connect this poem written thousands of years ago, ABC, by which I mean, the Age Before Coffee, and the Oregon Ducks are on tv, and I’m thinking, as I think about Odysseus and Penelope, he’s been gone twenty years, ten spent trying to get home to her in Ithaca, she’s got her hands full awaiting his moves towards the end zone dealing with all the people who are going to try to block his return, whom in fact he’s going to have to tackle and get off the field, and he’s trying to make progress forward as he’s impeded at every twist and turn, as Homer says, that man of twists and turns . . . . Defense and offense; offense is trying to make it to Ithaca, the red paint, with a whole crew trying to get him there, a crew taken down one after another, eaten alive by giants, monstrous forces–Odysseus the quarterback, wily, up to tricks, considering his read options as the monsters and tempters wrestle him to the ground, and he eludes them with his wit and with the gods definitely on his side, coming down to make the other team runner drop the ball a few feet from the end-zone, totally inexplicably, mysteriously, what could make him DO that, if not an Athena-like presence—and telling the team standing there dumbfounded, amazed, confounded at this divine intervention, pick up that ball, and run! And run he does, the loyal team-mate, 100 yards all the way to the end-zone for a touchdown! And the score is tied and the tide turns and it is a victory for the Ducks who are now No. 2, when it had looked so bad, so very bad, after many losses and SACKS, and I’m thinking of The Iliad–tale of a sacked city– and the Odyssey as the original football game of the human imagination, or rather, football as a kind of Homeric iliad and odyssey, or perhaps, how the human imagination conceives our story, as we circle round together, take time out from work to play, a play, to stage, put on the line, make a play, play out aspects of human experience, with rules and rituals, as we make meaning of it, in a poem, or a sport . . . and so we’ll run with this a little today, the connection between football and poetry. 

Oh Dr. B! 

But really, let’s think about it, after all, Emily Dickinson herself considered herself a wide receiver, didn’t she say, in “I Dwell in Possibility” (that would be all of us football fans), I spread wide my narrow hands to gather Paradise? Yes, and would you not consider T.S. Eliot on the special team, his Four Quartets’ we had the experience, but missed the meaning, we bring him in for whatever the momentous occasion for the quote, the wisdom that resets the clock, that turns the clock back, that moves the line, the paradigm by which we understand our lives; and is not Walt Whitman the cornerback who has our back, I will be good health to you, I stop somewhere waiting for you, and YOU, you, dear listener, are the receiver to whom our poets skilled in the read option aim their words, practice, with devotion, the art, with discipline, try to get their metaphoric balls in the air, hold that ball of meaning as it is torn and grabbed from their hands, rolling with it, leaping with it, this message to you, across the endzone of our understanding, take it home, straight to you, to your eyes and ears, to your mind? Is that not the touchdown, this poem finally to you, out of all the forces, that make those poetic feet scramble those neurons, those heartstrings, those soul-shuddering insights, those brave and risky adventures of spirit, scorned, sacrificing, to bring the poetry home to us, even, sometimes, to kick it? And have US catch it, even if it knocks us down with its power?


Well, let’s consider our earliest poetry, The Iliad and The Odyssey, we’ll use Robert Fitzgerald’s translation, because I like how he talks to the muse, how his first word is not how it begins in Greek with andra, Man, but the word, Sing! Sing in me, O Muse, and let’s see what we can deduce about ourselves from these two stories that may frame this sport of football which I admit to you, you know this, I do not understand, I watch with ignorance and confusion, I never know who has the ball or what team has it or what it going on, that said, I love it and respect it, the complexity, the whole metaphor of it, the window into us as a human community, and what we think about, and how we devise ways to put our experience in a format that we can understand—sort of-what did William Carlos Williams, the doctor, say about poetry—difficult, and despised—yet good health to us nevertheless, in fact, without which men die miserably every day? We’ll discuss epic, and Whitman and Dickinson, and Tennyson, and other poetry of caring and striving and finding and not yielding, and I’m pretty sure those are some of your favorite poems, as the poets pick up the ball and run with it on those poetic feet . . . so get ready for our show! We’re pregaming and ready to cheer: let’s hear it for The Poetry Slow Down, by Professor Barbara Mossberg, Produced by Sara Hughes, for


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© Barbara Mossberg 2014

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