YOUR MIND CAN TRANSFORM A NON MOMENT OR TERRIBLE TIME INTO MOMENT AND COMEDY: Poetry Takes On the Tragedy and Comedy of Life

So Poetry Slow Down! You’re slowing down here (hear hear!) with me, your host Professor Barbara Mossberg, Dr. B, and our production team, Zappa Johns and Nico Moss: you know you move too fast! This is our time to slow down, for the news we need, the news we heed, the news without which men die every day—that idea, –that people can die miserably without the news of poetry, is by William Carlos Williams. But he’s a poet, Dr. B! Of course he thinks that! You’re right, of course, evolved listener, but he was also a physician, seeing patients during the day. He’d go home at night, with memory blood on his hands, and write poems on prescription pads, to save his life, and his patients’ lives—and all of our lives. Yes, he is the one who wrote, so much depends upon a red wheel barrow glazed with rain water beside the white chickens. That’s the whole poem, and he’s claiming that things matter, that they are amazing, the view out the kitchen window, the weedy yard, and for that to happen, to see blaze in raindrops, there’s this eye and mind and heart: the truth that we’re each this cauldron of emotions, that in us is so much greatness of heart, of great feeling, magnitude of feeling, longing, emptiness, tragedy and pain, worry, a sense of importance of our lives, and the most innocent innocuous little things . . . well, there are no little things. Everything matters—as humans, we are triggered by anything, anything in this world, that invokes our ability to care. O, being human! What a piece of work we are! To quote the Bard–

This past week I was thinking about drama—our lives as drama, and what poetry and drama make of it . . . and I wanted to share with you what I was saying to our community, in the Insight Seminars at the University of Oregon, and Osher Institute of Lifelong Learning,

It can be that drama is the most natural of all literary arts—it’s just us, being ourselves. Think of a conversation, not even a conversation, just talking to someone, in person, on the phone—you may have had this morning, perhaps on the way here. What were those words? What happened? You’re going to say now that’s not drama, that’s not art, that’s just …normal life.

Now what happens if you imagine that exact scene, and us watching it? All of a sudden, moments that may have been charged, or maybe that seemed inconsequential, are full of portent, meaning, significance. Through the lens of our vision, they become art. Workaday language we use to order a latte or draft beer or kombucha or say goodbye to our partner or ask who’s seen your phone or to say debit card or I love you or it’s time to take out the garbage become, on stage, art. Drama–tragedy and comedy–provides stage directions for our experience of life’s stages. What did Oedipus learn from the Sphinx? We will engage fierce and funny lifesaving wisdom on aging as we read examples of bravery, foolery, and panache in these and other plays and stage monologues:

Author! Author! Who’s writing our lines? We live our lives from the inside out. Only on the stage page is our human experience visible if not also perceived as meaningful, noble, tragic, and yes, comic. Osher Lifelong Learning, yes: as we seek wisdom for sustainable life, we’re reading together a few fierce and funny famous plays that spotlight the most precious, challenging aspects of our human journey, and give us insight into the age-old wisdom of this dynamic literary form. Facing life’s drama, what is seen about our lives in Oedipus, the Salesman, Blanche, Cyrano, Quixote, Lettice Douffet? From T.S. Eliot to “Hair,” we’ll see drama making tragic and comic hay of our inner Hamlets (and secret Prufrocks).

So slow down, and we’ll stage right now for your ears how drama illuminates what’s to laugh, cry and sigh about when the worldgets you down–or, the Tragedy and Comedy of our Curtain Fates. Thank you for joining me in the wings, and I would love to hear (hear! Hear!) from you, at bmossber@uoregon.edu. Yours truly, Dr. B

© Barbara Mossberg 2018

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