On this week’s Smithsonian News from the Department of Terrestial Magnetism That Life Begins With Rocks

“So called lifeless rocks”—Star Power–the Life in Stones: Who Knew?—a rocking show on new science and old poetry—We will rock you from Homer to Shakespeare to John Muir—to T.S. Eliot–to D.H. Lawrence—to Ruth Padel –and even yours truly, You Are My Sunshine: Haven’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 arekey”stones” to origins of life, but Homer’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 life’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 “without which men die miserably every day”(William Carlos Williams)—poetry. To the melodies of “Twinkle twinkle little star,” “You are my sunshine,” “Rock around the Clock,” “We will rock you,” theme from “Rocky,” and “Rockin Robin,” we’ll hear what poets have to say about “so-called lifeless rocks.”

Hark! Heralds! Hear hear! There’s news on the science front! Reported in the Smithsonian this week, and past weeks: news! Let’s listen in. . .

So we begin with “The 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 2010” and then hear this week’s findings reported in a NOVA film on PBS, “Life’s Rocky Start.” This is breaking edgebreaking news in the science world, but in the poetry world, there’s a musical Shakespeare Rocks, using rocks as a verb with which we mean happening, going on . . .lifelike, right? These are Shakespeare’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.”  Coleridge has rocks dancing in Kubla Khan. And with John Muir, a geologist, so he should know, “so-calledlifeless rocks” 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 Muir’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 we’ll hear some o’ T.S. Eliot, connecting rocks with religious iconography (Peter and the Rock of Christianity, for example),and contemporary poets on rocks, “Blue moonstone” by David Harsent, “Lapis lazuli” by Imtiaz Dharker, “Opals” by Fiona Sampson, “Morganite” by SwithunCooper, “Amethyst” by Michael Symmons Roberts,

“So help me, there is nothing/—not one word—I can say/that would be solid as a ring,” and “Emerald” 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. Eliot’s The Rock fundraising pageant, “Hollow Men,”“Wasteland,” 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 was—of course—always—a poem), “Panning for Gold.” 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, “Fidelity.” Lawrence, of course, of course, reveals the life in rocks as love—“the gem of mutual peace emerging from the wild chaos of love.” 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 “Hamilton,” coming soon to a rocking neighborhood near you.

With Professor Barbara Mossberg
Produced by Zappa Johns
© Barbara Mossberg 2016

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