â€œSo called lifeless rocksâ€â€”Star Power–the Life in Stones: Who Knew?â€”a rocking show on new science and old poetryâ€”We will rock you from Homer to Shakespeare to John Muirâ€”to T.S. Eliot–to D.H. Lawrenceâ€”to Ruth Padel â€“and even yours truly, You Are My Sunshine: Havenâ€™t We Always Said (Sung) So? Poets, You Rock!
PoetrySlowDown, here is the rock bottom line: rocks are a happening and they always have been. Smithsonian science writers track discoveries suggesting rocks arekeyâ€stonesâ€ to origins of life, but Homerâ€™s Circe tells Odysseus of Wandering Rocks, Roving Rocks; myth has Jason contending with dynamic rocks: in ancient lorerocks are alive and full of spirit, vim and vigor (and often throw things), dynamic actors in lifeâ€™s epic, have star power, whether Planctae or Symplegades or Scylla and Charybdis. So we are going to get to the bottom of this, with the news we need, the news we heed, the news â€œwithout which men die miserably every dayâ€(William Carlos Williams)â€”poetry. To the melodies of â€œTwinkle twinkle little star,â€ â€œYou are my sunshine,â€ â€œRock around the Clock,â€ â€œWe will rock you,â€ theme from â€œRocky,â€ and â€œRockin Robin,â€ weâ€™ll hear what poets have to say about â€œso-called lifeless rocks.â€
Hark! Heralds! Hear hear! Thereâ€™s news on the science front! Reported in the Smithsonian this week, and past weeks: news! Letâ€™s listen in. . .
So we begin with â€œThe Origins of Life–A mineralogist believes he’s discovered how life’s early building blocks connected four billion years ago By Helen FieldsSMITHSONIAN MAGAZINE | OCTOBER 2010â€ and then hear this weekâ€™s findings reported in a NOVA film on PBS, â€œLifeâ€™s Rocky Start.â€ This is breaking edgebreaking news in the science world, but in the poetry world, thereâ€™s a musical Shakespeare Rocks, using rocks as a verb with which we mean happening, going on . . .lifelike, right? These are Shakespeareâ€™s words on rocks from As You Like It, And this our life, exempt from public haunt, finds tongues in trees, books in the runningbrooks, sermons in stones, and good in everything.â€ Â Coleridge has rocks dancing in Kubla Khan. And with John Muir, a geologist, so he should know, â€œso-calledlifeless rocksâ€ are alive and well, dancing, talking, full of brotherly love, in fact, they are our fellow creatures, part of stars, our sunshine, just as the song says.
To read John Muirâ€™s ecstatic purple prose is to read of shining, glowing, radiant rocks he considers sparkling company, confesses he loves, talks to, asks directions,dines with. Oh, we love this prose. Then weâ€™ll hear some oâ€™ T.S. Eliot, connecting rocks with religious iconography (Peter and the Rock of Christianity, for example),and contemporary poets on rocks, â€œBlue moonstoneâ€ by David Harsent, â€œLapis lazuliâ€ by Imtiaz Dharker, â€œOpalsâ€ by Fiona Sampson, â€œMorganiteâ€ by SwithunCooper, â€œAmethystâ€ by Michael Symmons Roberts,
â€œSo help me, there is nothing/â€”not one wordâ€”I can say/that would be solid as a ring,â€ and â€œEmeraldâ€ by Ruth Padel, my colleague at the Abroad WritersConference in Dublin, radio host in London, a special joy to have her on our show. We hear about T.S. Eliotâ€™s The Rock fundraising pageant, â€œHollow Men,â€â€œWasteland,â€ and then I weigh in with a poem I wrote in the Arctic Circle drawn in to a river to pan for gold (which I thought was a photo op until I realized it wasâ€”of courseâ€”alwaysâ€”a poem), â€œPanning for Gold.â€ And then, to get to the real bottom of the mystery of rocks and what poets know about this life of ours, we turnto D. H. Lawrence, â€œFidelity.â€ Lawrence, of course, of course, reveals the life in rocks as loveâ€”â€œthe gem of mutual peace emerging from the wild chaos of love.â€ Oh,yes.
So PoetrySlowDown, speaking of what lights our lives, you rock, you are my rock, you are my sunshine, speaking literally, until next week, thank you. And speakingof rocking, stay tuned for our show on â€œHamilton,â€ coming soon to a rocking neighborhood near you.
THE POETRY SLOW DOWN
With Professor Barbara Mossberg
Produced by Zappa Johns
Â©Â Barbara Mossberg 2016