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The Enduring Power of Poetry

(Photo by Robin Holland)

This week on the JOURNAL, Bill Moyers spoke with actor and author John Lithgow about his work and the enduring power of great poetry. Lithgow, best known for starring in NBC's hit show 3RD ROCK FROM THE SUN as well as a wide array of other roles on stage and screen, said:

“The magic of archaic language, I think, [is] it sort of takes us back in time. It’s the beauty of Shakespeare, it’s his turn of phrase in a language that’s 400 years old, and it’s like music. I’m an actor, I’m a performer and an entertainer. Almost everything I do in these areas is using words, and there are these three aspects to a turn of phrase: the meaning, the emotion, and the music... Shakespeare has the line “Ay, but to die, and go we know not where; to lie in cold obstruction and to rot.” That’s language of 400 years ago, but the music of that language and the emotion and the thought is just as compelling. It’s just a very different type of music – it’s like listening to Eric Satie and Bach.”

What are your favorite poems?


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Is a black man safe

Is a black man
in this White
Is his black family

Four white men
met violent ends
while living
Two more
may have been
murdered, and
Eleven others targeted;
some more than once.
Did they all
in fear?

It seems
a risky residence
in a blood-soaked town;
a riddled fortress
in a nation built
on blood-soaked

So the odds
for this
in this
White House
loom bleak. . .

until we look
at the odds
were he just another
black man
out on the street.



"The magic of archaic language" notwithstanding, and with all due respect to the poets of 400 years ago, I must redirect your attention to the vibrancy and, yes, the magic, that is to be found in contemporary poetry happening right under our noses, if only we would look.

With all this veneration for the poets-of-old and for the well-established standard stock of textbook poets, you might easily miss the point that poetry is an evolving, multi-faceted and free-spirited organism.
In its contemporary manifestation it lives in the here and now and beyond.

By way of an example, check out contemporary poet and author Ana Elsner. Her passionate poems give present-tense testimony about the human condition as observed through her eyes. She is a world citizen with a global perspective which is reflected in her poetic voice.

Rather than angling for personal fame and fortune, Ana Elsner has dedicated her work to help raise the popularity and status of poetry in our society and make it accessible to a wide and diverse audience. Perhaps not as yet well-known to the public, Elsner is nonetheless a willing ambassador for the enduring power of poetry.

In addition to finding her work in print, you can click here to watch documentary film footage of modern poet Ana Elsner live on stage.

And if you enjoyed the poems click here to see part two of Ana Elsner's performance.

It is my firm belief that the poets among us here and now are deserving of our attention and that we should seek them out and listen to what they have to say and how they say it.

Loved this show with John Lithgow, he was wonderful reading the poetry! We watched this with my mom and she loved it too, brought back memories she had of learning poems in school and of family members who would recite them. Great show!

I love Moyers, and have great respect for Lithgow, but the word is "mischievous", not "mischievious". Too many of our scholars are mispronouncing this word, and it is embarassing. Come on, guys, read the dictionary!


Experientation with spelling,
or the placement of words in the line
or flashlight hints from the mind's dark dwellings
are not the things that make a poem fine.
Good verse is not just style or technique;
when best it is a clear voice from the soul.
It's meaning -- not arrangement -- that should speak,
conveying whole and nothing but the whole
intention of the poet to express
profound pronouncements and intense feelings,
while stripping nude, revealing no distress,
embarrassment or defensive dealings.
A poet must think clearly and bare heart,
before attempting clever, cute or smart

Last week McWhorter on how to decode language or how ome should speak without coding, and this week Mr. Lithgow on how to interpet intentionally coded language termed poetry.

Polite, straight forward, plain spoked language is best for me as figuring out what someone means leaves me scratching my head-mostly.

However, Mr. Luthgow is magical in his delivery of a poem, and he adds life to the story. Thanks!


What are you looking for …
A forest glade on a sheet of wood pulp,
Some unfolded airplane magic carpet
To carry you to worlds of description,
Or a flipbook of emotional leaves
To run forward or backward
From bud to brown and back to sprout?

Isn’t it enough …
I compose to fight decomposition,
Photosynthesizing enlightenment
To produce flammable, breathable air?


The physicist had reached the end
of equations he’d worked for years.
Excited, he called an old friend,
to invite him out for some beers.
When asked about the occasion,
he smugly announced he’d worked-out
the quark confinement equation,
beyond any shadow of doubt.
For strings of ev’ry dimension
his elegant math had held true;
no one could argue dissension!
When there was no response, he knew,
informed by silence on the phone,
how far he’d come to be alone.


We boomers, as our generation’s called,
have lived through two seasons, considered great,
during which our values were overhauled --
The Summer of Love and Autumn of Hate.
Both brought us together and gave us hope.
In the face of injustice, both were staged --
the first, a celebration with free dope,
the other a tragedy that enraged.
We were innocent in ‘Sixty-Seven;
we saw world violence and were appalled.
Our attitudes changed by Nine-Eleven;
we sought revenge, though we were shocked and galled.
While Winter of War passes, may we find
The Spring of Renewal and peace of mind.

Far between sundown's finish an' midnight's broken toll
We ducked inside the doorway, thunder crashing
As majestic bells of bolts struck shadows in the sounds
Seeming to be the chimes of freedom flashing
Flashing for the warriors whose strength is not to fight
Flashing for the refugees on the unarmed road of flight
An' for each an' ev'ry underdog soldier in the night
An' we gazed upon the chimes of freedom flashing.

In the city's melted furnace, unexpectedly we watched
With faces hidden while the walls were tightening
As the echo of the wedding bells before the blowin' rain
Dissolved into the bells of the lightning
Tolling for the rebel, tolling for the rake
Tolling for the luckless, the abandoned an' forsaked
Tolling for the outcast, burnin' constantly at stake
An' we gazed upon the chimes of freedom flashing.

Through the mad mystic hammering of the wild ripping hail
The sky cracked its poems in naked wonder
That the clinging of the church bells blew far into the breeze
Leaving only bells of lightning and its thunder
Striking for the gentle, striking for the kind
Striking for the guardians and protectors of the mind
An' the unpawned painter behind beyond his rightful time
An' we gazed upon the chimes of freedom flashing.

Through the wild cathedral evening the rain unraveled tales
For the disrobed faceless forms of no position
Tolling for the tongues with no place to bring their thoughts
All down in taken-for-granted situations
Tolling for the deaf an' blind, tolling for the mute
Tolling for the mistreated, mateless mother, the mistitled prostitute
For the misdemeanor outlaw, chased an' cheated by pursuit
An' we gazed upon the chimes of freedom flashing.

Even though a cloud's white curtain in a far-off corner flashed
An' the hypnotic splattered mist was slowly lifting
Electric light still struck like arrows, fired but for the ones
Condemned to drift or else be kept from drifting
Tolling for the searching ones, on their speechless, seeking trail
For the lonesome-hearted lovers with too personal a tale
An' for each unharmful, gentle soul misplaced inside a jail
An' we gazed upon the chimes of freedom flashing.

Starry-eyed an' laughing as I recall when we were caught
Trapped by no track of hours for they hanged suspended
As we listened one last time an' we watched with one last look
Spellbound an' swallowed 'til the tolling ended
Tolling for the aching ones whose wounds cannot be nursed
For the countless confused, accused, misused, strung-out ones an' worse
An' for every hung-up person in the whole wide universe
An' we gazed upon the chimes of freedom flashing.

The Last of the Light Brigade

There were thirty million English who talked of England's might,
There were twenty broken troopers who lacked a bed for the night.
They had neither food nor money, they had neither service nor trade;
They were only shiftless soldiers, the last of the Light Brigade.

They felt that life was fleeting; they knew not that art was long,
That though they were dying of famine, they lived in deathless song.
They asked for a little money to keep the wolf from the door;
And the thirty million English sent twenty pounds and four!

They laid their heads together that were scarred and lined and grey;
Keen were the Russian sabres, but want was keener than they;
And an old Troop-Sergeant muttered, "Let us go to the man who writes
The things on Balaclava the kiddies at school recites."

They went without bands or colours, a regiment ten-file strong,
To look for the Master-singer who had crowned them all in his song;
And, waiting his servant's order, by the garden gate they stayed,
A desolate little cluster, the last of the Light Brigade.

They strove to stand to attention, to straighten the toil-bowed back;
They drilled on an empty stomach, the loose-knit files fell slack;
With stooping of weary shoulders, in garments tattered and frayed,
They shambled into his presence, the last of the Light Brigade.

The old Troop-Sergeant was spokesman, and "Beggin' your pardon," he said,
"You wrote o' the Light Brigade, sir. Here's all that isn't dead.
An' it's all come true what you wrote, sir, regardin' the mouth of hell;
For we're all of us nigh to the workhouse, an' we thought we'd call an' tell.

"No, thank you, we don't want food, sir; but couldn't you take an' write
A sort of 'to be continued' and 'see next page' o'the fight?
We think that someone has blundered, an' couldn't you tell'em how?
You wrote we were heroes once, sir. Please, write we are starving now."

The poor little army departed, limping and lean and forlorn.
And the heart of the Master-singer grew hot with "the scorn of scorn."
And he wrote for them wonderful verses that swept the land like flame,
Till the fatted souls of the English were scourged with the thing called Shame.

O thirty million English that babble of England's might,
Behold there are twenty heroes who lack their food to-night;
Our children's children are lisping to "honour the charge they made --"
And we leave to the streets and the workhouse the charge of the Light Brigade!


The keyboard monkeys, ad infinitum,
may randomly type out a Shakespeare play,
but publishing monkeys may well spite ‘em,
printing only the pap that sells today.
The chance of brilliance, vanishingly small,
is filtered through some monkey business sense
and may never make the bookshelves at all --
some monkeys see only dollars and cents.
A universe of monkey time and space
might type a script, enduring and concise,
which only may reach its true, valued place
if editor apes judge it worth the price.
Eternity brings this to fruition:
“Thank you for sending us your submission…”


You dislike poetry because you think
You do not speak it, never listening,
Because you cannot see it down in ink;
You’ve not heard your honeyed words glistening,
But I have heard you speak in meter sweet
And metaphor and simile sublime.
To walk in verse, you needn’t count your feet,
Nor is it necessary all lines rhyme.
You disown your words and deny your tongue
To say you have no interest in verse,
Ignorant of the images you’ve sung
And of your own souls music (which is worse).
Poetry’s no academic notion;
Its function is to express emotion.


No need to mention any of the names
of those who ask me, “Why so quiet, James?”

In truth, I’m quiet since I do not choose
to shallowly discuss the evening news,
to idly chat about weather reports
or wager over who should win at sports.

And why reveal the details of my life
to those caught up in private griefs and strife,
who listen just to items they can use
to gossip, harbor ill, taunt or abuse,
or those who, learning of me, would dismiss
as crazy anything that runs amiss
to attitudes with which they feel at home
and scoff at the suggestion they might roam
beyond the kind of life they’ve preconceived
or outside of the faith they have believed.

Why waste a discourse on those without will,
to whom stupidity’s a social skill?

And why discuss philosophy and art,
or matters even closer to my heart,
or, with light-hearted wit, why try to start
with those whose highest humor is a fart?

This is really why I’m quiet today,
though, “... just tired, I guess,” is all I’ll say.


Without my word-crumb trail,
I circle back
endlessly over the same emotions.
Unless resolved in writing,
I lose track
of decisions about my devotions.
If I leave verse every few steps I take,
I won't get lost in any choice I make.

To answer the question you asked John Lithgow, yes, many still love poetry. I had to shut the program off, however, when John started reading poetry; it was just too painful. And Morgan Freeman did no better. I have always admired the work of these two actors, and I'm glad they enjoy poetry, but BOY they read it aloud badly. John even missed a crucial word in EBB's Songs from the Portuguese "How Do I Love Thee" poem. Anyway, the bad readings surprised and horrified me. Poetry is conversation, with passion and without, depending upon the poet and his intentions. I love the show, though, and I still admire the work of those two actors, just not their poetry reading skills. Painful.

I continue to be in awe of Lithgow's depth of intelligence, talent, and personality.

I wished I understood what those blogs are about. I truly loved Friday 3.6. show on Fresno channel 18.
It helped me to forget a drug reaction itch for a little while.


Saturated emotions
Penned with letters
Hung out on clotheslines
Scented by breezes
Dried by sunlight
And worn by nudes


Sketching portraits in iambs -- metered thought --
He reflects the gamut of emotion
And presents plainly -- no judgment wrought
Kaleidoscopes of man’s psychology,
Enlightening the unconscious ocean.
Swimming in pools -- egos -- other than his own,
Peradventure punning philology,
Explaining nothing but likely motives
And bringing value judgments to naught
Remain his immortal and human concerns,
Examining and conveying in turn.


I think that I shall never see
As lovely a dichotomy --
Soul serene, secure in beauty,
Fearful, though, of social duty,
Thoughtful lover, unrequited
By your own predisposition,
Home alone with Truth united --
A modern metaphysician.

Passions rage; you arrange a truce
Between your sparrows and your snakes.
Soul-searching makes you a recluse,
Lost in imaginary wakes.
Dressing Vision in Fantasy’s clothes,
Your poems make Heaven from Hell.
Through loneliness and mortal woes,
Your spirit gets on very well.

You, nobody? It’s just not true!
Sweet Emily, we all know you.













I’ve grabbed your attention
with short lines
and self satisfaction!


I knew I could
and that it was there
and that its span
was just this long.


I am a true contemporary
who knows how to acceptably

write a poem. First with a tangible
aroma of burnt toast, I will run on

my imaginary couplets like a stroke
victim of the modern prejudices.

(Strophe’s choice is put aside, and
Iamb not going to count my feet.)

Once cute, most common figures of speech have
worn out their fashion like poorly matched metaphors.

(Do not rhyme, remember, do not rhyme,
as you wax nostalgic for some childhood time… damn!)

Pent up pentameter oozes with therapeutic
confessionals that spring or dance or likewise

incongruently twist uncomfortably on the page,
while conjuring an image both shamefully personal

and embarrassingly boring from a tourist’s slide show
or the shoebox full of faded, classic Polaroids.

Sardonically satiristic, I’ll reach-around to reference
an obscurely erudite portrait of some saint, like

Christina The Astonishing’s flight into the rafters
of the church to avoid the stink of her own kind.

And at the end of a turbulent typhoon of irregular lines
washing deeply into the recesses of nowhere in particular,

I will, after too long a time, finally and hopefully declare:
une mule morte sur les clefs du piano.

Self satisfied, I’ll end my rant -- non sequitur but unchallenged…
or would you prefer a tantalizing inquiry of you, Dear Reader?


There’s little market for the words I write,
but I will compose a poem tonight,
and then I’ll circulate it just for spite,
off’ring for sale the first serial right.

Assuming my text’s not too erudite,
and the language won’t offend or affright
either a six-year-old or troglodyte
and my delivery’s polished and tight,
for a penny a line, you know I might
find an editor with enough foresight
to foster an unpublished neophyte
and grant me success almost overnight.

Although this rate of payment may seem slight,
its acceptance will fill me with delight.


Worming through the tantalizing jungle
nearly catatonically sated
with bitter antonym of nourishment,
my choice is to withdraw reclusively.

Time’s suspended …
dreams elsewhere,
under glassine membrane occurs
a veiled but stirring transformation.

Soon opened,
this envelope reveals
the full-fledged figure
that’s fluttered proudly
in the warm light of day.

then swiftly flying,
joyously, to the glittering bank,
I sip the nectar of the gods
as a newly emerged writer.

I shut my eyes and I can see you.
You are strong and faithful.
Your mind stretches out to the Divine.
We don’t know what we need.

In pain I know who I am.
In peace God knows me.
I am turning like spin the bottle.
There is a kiss that waits.

I don’t care if I’m smart.
No more than being tall or short.
When I want love I am Love.
He makes it and I am made.

There is this thing in the blood.
A sharp moment, a face,
We say grace.
Benedictus benedicat.

Written while watching my two year old in a graveyard:

Eithne’s Dance

Petals fallen
Bony stems reach for
Autumnal light

Mirthful Fairy hands
Intently gather posies
Of dandelion dead

On graves
She whirls moss
Spanish skirts

Oaks hum the tune
Resonating woodsy
Wind rhythms

Prone to nostalgia
Her earthen audience
Of names old-fashioned

Laugh at her
Toddle legged
Brown leaf chase

By: Tad Walters

In my last post I forgot to thank Bill Moyers for all has done and continues to do. I am honored to share a world with a soul such as his.

Thank you, Bill.


I plan to buy and read John Lithgow's book. I hope he included my favorite poem by my favorite poet. It tells as I never could exactly why I enlisted to fly helicopters in Vietnam:

An Irish Airman foresees his Death
--William Butler Yeats

I know that I shall meet my fate
Somewhere among the clouds above;
Those that I fight I do not hate
Those that I guard I do not love;
My country is Kiltartan Cross,
My countrymen Kiltartan’s poor,
No likely end could bring them loss
Or leave them happier than before.
Nor law, nor duty bade me fight,
Nor public man, nor cheering crowds,
A lonely impulse of delight
Drove to this tumult in the clouds;
I balanced all, brought all to mind,
The years to come seemed waste of breath,
A waste of breath the years behind
In balance with this life, this death.


Altho I liked 3d Rock about as much as the Solomons liked Jell-O, John should get Marcy cranked up again to confront the comedically challenged instead of wasting her time giving money away. Subject? unemployment, of course.

i listen to your program every week, and thank you gratefully. i enjoyed john lithgow, and will check into the next poetry festival. here is a poem by sparrow which means so much to my heart i know you're there,i feel you everywhere.everywhere and everywhere and everywhere, in my heart i know you're there. i feel you everywhere, posted by annie,3/6/2009

Bill Moyers,
Enriching, nurturing,
Baring, bearing the truth
We need so many more like you.


Poets have dreams on paper, that we craft
to sail thought’s ocean on an idea raft,
unperturbed, though known ports may be far aft --
our “S.O.S.” means “Start On Second-draft.”

Poets have dreams beyond the ones we write;
it’s source for our creative appetite --
held carrots before the mind to excite
we beastly versers to scale to our height.

Poets have dreams that share, in metaphor,
with most or much of life, esprit de corps,
encouragement and the will to explore
what can be done and then do even more.

The dreams of poets lead us to our goal;
poets have dreams that guide us to our soul.

I watched the rerun of this show tonight, and I must say, it was one of the best things I've seen on television. Finally, someone who cares about poetry and can actually read it. A magical hour. And for once, Bill's show was almost completely free of the spin factor. Thank you, Bill.

Expression Vs. Espresso

Parking closely
in vicinity less than sterling,
the poet has driven an hour,
to arrive at the bohemian dive
and sign up for the open mike.

His fellows, each conferred
five minutes, not fifteen,
for spotlight, not fame,
paying more attention
to their own notes and prep,
give limited interest.

He’s driven to expose emotions
he’s photo captured in words,
hoping to develop mental pictures
with the same clear focus
depicted in his mind,
but most judge his need to share selfish
and his desire to show telling.

In metrical tap-dance
the vaudeville of his wit
introduces the burlesque of his soul,
heckled by the rabid machine,
frothing cappuccino from its mouth,
reminding him this is a place of business,

his words only a diverting pursuit.

Mr. Moyers-
When I saw some of the hateful speech above and read of the attacks on you, from events that allegedly happened over 40 years ago, I wanted to let you know the effect you've had on my life here in Nebraska.

I was thinking the other day about people who've had major effects on my life and you immediately came to mind. I must have checked out those World of Ideas cassettes out from the library a hundred times and I still tell stories like the one about Susan Butcher from that series.

And then you introduced me to Joseph Campbell, whose words I think about every day.

Growing up in Nebraska wasn't the best place to be introduced to diverse views and ideas, but your efforts brought them to me.

My favorite poem is "September 1913" by W.B. Yeats, which taught me that poetry could be both boldly political and rebellious. I was saddened, however, when I had a pint of Guiness in Ireland and found out that Yeats rarely ventured out of his tower, vowing to- likely through the example of Mr. Campbell- live a full life rather than the kind J.D. Salinger described in "For Esme" as "the uncomradely scratching of pens."

Don't let them get you down. Your wisdom about everything from poetry to addiction to mythology to new methods of winning dog sledding races has transformed the lives of thousands. That's why they're going after you, in fact. Your work speaks for itself and your integrity is worthy of PBS legends like Fred Rogers.

You accurately observed that "the delusional is no longer marginal." Don't let the fact that the delusional are going after you now get you down.

You brought poetry and other worlds of ideas to people who craved it. And we'll never be the same.

I was delighted to hear Bill Moyers and John Lithgow praising Ogden Nash. As I was growing up, I was fascinated by Nash's wit, so much so that I created a game in his honor. The game is called "NASHKU," like NASH HAIKU. It requires very short verses, preferably with rhyme, meter and puns. Of course one can play the game anytime, but it is much more fun in groups.


The farmer's wife to the reaper came, its mysteries to master.

But when she bent to look beneath the thing, she found disaster.

Leo Toribio
Pittsburgh, PA

Bill Moyers is in for a traumatic surprise if tonight he is about to assert that "time is money."
(See title of Jan. 16th, 2009 episode) I'm afraid the relative and insubstantial nature of both time and money will be his mental undoing.

Physicists now realize that time is a phenomenon with no substance, and of scant comprehension. Sketchy theories underlie their provisional understanding. Depending upon your speed and position the perception of time is fluid and variable. (Maybe the speed of light is a constant? No one can say.) We've understood this psychologically for ages. See how your 3 hour sortee' into cyberspace is perceived as minutes?

Money may be even less substantial. It is a social convention of exchange and standing. Many categories of need and behavior override, transcend and contradict it. If money ruled always, ethics and morals (as intelligible) could not exist. If money values rule your colonized mind you may be insane.

That is why we must overcome the parameters of our legal and governmental precedents, traditions and mindsets. Charles Dickens only scratched the boxtop on this subject area.

How can we stand by when food and shelter are denied because money is lacking? Why has FDR's expanded Bill of Rights been laughed at? Why are so many now denied the employment they need to secure the basics of life?
Pry your cold dead synapses off the lock-box?
If we cannot mature in understanding that water, air, fertile earth and the things we build are real, while money is a relative fiction, then maybe our time has run out.

I am waiting to see if Bill can pass this test.

Avoid the widely reproduced hate spam below (doctorhugo).
By cloning fascist propoganda this poor nonpoetic soul may have earned itself a quarter, me precious.

Leave it alone moderators, though it contains threats, for it shows us how weak are those opposing the hope nourished here on Bill's blog.

Shouldn't we be discussing and sharing POETRY here?

How often have I heard someone say?
If I had some money, I'd do things my way.
Little do they know that, it's so hard to find.
One rich man in ten with a satisfied mind.

Money can't purchase your youth when you're old.
Or friends when you're lonely, or a love that's grown cold.
Media fails to console every time.
It leaves you prostrate with a colonized mind.

That's my parody and I'm stickin' to it.

On the subject of enlightenment...
The light is blinding and yet many people grope in the darkness. It is impossible to convince people of the obvious. What is the possibility of convincing them of the complex?
In the last eight years; we have made a quantum leap back into the dark ages. So called Christian people see no problem with torture and conservative Republicans see no problem with giving their supporters billions of dollars and bankrupting the country. Economics based on greed and chance is fiscal madness. Is it lead in our food, chemicals in the air or pollutants in the water that is bringing on universal dementia?
We need to take a serious look at what is going on.
The country is in a mess and there are still important people blocking any attempt to solve our problems.
The concept of patriotism has been corrupted along with our judgment.
I think our problem is with blindness not lack of enlightenment.

this is a poem:

John Shuck (RN & accountant):

Concerning David E.& F.'s take upon Shakespeare quotes-

Before Shakespeare there was the translated (truncated) Bible, rewritten by similar poets. Life was very different then, plenty strange to our life today.

Way back in 100 ad there were Gnostics. Life was very different then, plenty strange to our life today.

Jesus said, "If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you."
from the Secret Book of Thomas

"Abandon the search for God and the creation and other matters of similar sort. Look for him/her by taking yourself as the starting point. Learn who is within you who makes everything his own and says,
'My God, my mind, my thought, my soul, my body.'
Learn the sources of sorrow, joy, love, hate...
If you carefully investigate these matters you will find him/her in yourself. Monoimus (Gnostic teacher)
(In other words: Begin the quest for empathy within your own being.)

And they had a humor similar to Shakespeare:

She, the companion of the Savior is Mary Magdalene. Christ loves her more than all the other disciples, and often kisses her on the mouth. The rest of the disciples are offended. They pleaded,"Why do you love her more than all of us?" The Savior smiled and answered them saying, "Are you hungry to be loved in the same manner as I love her?" (from Thomas)

(It sounds like locker room stuff to me.) I remind myself, again and often: Life was very different then, plenty strange to our life today.

It was politics and not heresy that caused this old poetry to be burned and suppressed. I suggest, search for what is being suppressed today if you wish to be enlightened.

John Shuck,

Out of context,
It may be.
As bad advice,
I disagree.

Going through life,
We must adjust.
Taking advice,
from The ones we trust.

John Shuck,
"Men at play were like little children"...
I think that this line applies to your attempt to destroy people's sand castles with your little shovel.
This country is in serious trouble and there are mean natured people that are doing everything they can to make the situation worse. They will not be happy until they have gutted our state of the union. Their glee is in seeing other people suffer.
In nature there are two types of creatures decomposers and constructors. We have had eight years of decomposers and now we desperately need constructors.
Otherwise, we will be a slave state for the many and a state of chaos for the rest.

To David F. and David E.:
The person speaking those lines was Polonius, who was a windbag and stater of the obvious. Many believe that he was a characterization of Lord Burghley. So the words spoken should not, I believe be taken as advice from the mouth of Shakespeare. If you go back and read Polonius' lines throughout the play, you will see that Shakespeare didn't think much of the fellow and so his advice, like any should be taken with a grain of salt.

Klark M.,
The "Party" is not over if the Fat Cats get back on track...
There is plenty of money out in cyber space; all that is necessary is to get the Fat Cats back to investing in their own future instead of the meaningless waste of time, lives and money.
We have the technology and resources to improve everyone's lives if we can get our priorities and ethics right.
Hopefully, our new president will make that happen.

Manfred H. Hermann (German citizen residing in Russia) posted a link to a now legendary Pat Buchanan article "The Party Is Over."
Buchanan's main complaint is that the US failed to follow Hamiltonian fiscal policy by embracing unchecked globalism and surrendered monetary controls to speculators. Now, says Buchanan, we not only have undermined national security by ceasing domestic manufacturing, we are domestically and internationally bankrupt. He goes on to describe the furniture in our foreclosed house, the customs that make widening income and wealth disparity OK, the squandering of our military power under corporate adventurism.

Hermann seems to agree with the article but adds a veneer of moral outrage to Buchanan's mechanics. It sounds peculiarly like a Soviet critique script from the 1960s. Oh for those salad days of the kettle and pot blackening each others' reputation. Certainly, Hermann must must realize he is telling Pat Buchanan, and we American dissidents, nothing new. Maybe he doesn't know about Pat Buchanan's unrealistic religiosity, his racial overtones, his fairy tale America firstness, and the half-truth nature of his better arguments. Hermann probably hasn't seen the hate mobilizing Lou Dobbs Show, which pretty much mimics Buchanan.

America (the USA) has many much worse problems than Herman describes, though he exaggerates some of them. I doubt if he understands the differences between the economics of Robert Taft and Alexander Hamilton, or even who they were. That's OK.

Mr. Hermann is probably an oilman considering the itinerary he outlined (maybe natural gas). He mentions nothing about the global climate change demise that would affect Germany and Russia right along with us. Sure Americans will be poorer for awhile, Herr Hermann and Herr Buchanan, but it is the elite wealthy class who have mortally wounded themselves. We the people are about the same as always, except for the pluses new immigrants bring, and we will shake off these discredited capitalist fleas and be back contributing to global solutions sooner than you expect. In fact, the world probably could not survive without us. We will whizz past our President Obama's programs and expectations like a rabbit overtaking a turtle. This setback will give us room to think and breathe like human beings again, break out of cyberspace into reality, and find new ways and organizational strategies of which old men like Herman and Buchanan have never yet dreamed. Just get your junk out of our damned way. We are the People, the generous and caring people who will save your oily ass, you dumb German corporate dupe. I apologize, but I have to talk like that: I am an American dissident.

Dear Mr. Patrick J. Buchanan

With utmost pleasure I have received from my dear old friend Mr. Robert Carter, US citizen, living in Houston, your published article “the Party is over”

My name is Manfred H. Hermann, German citizen, and living for over 25 years in different countries, such as Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Iraq, Lebanon, and U.A.E.

Of course I have been visiting your country for many times, too.

However, presently or better to say finally for the last 17 years I am living in Moscow, Russia.
I totally agree with you that the people should be on the elevated platform of judgment. The fact that US citizens once more are degraded to the level of a spectator should make the US - Americans start to think and consequently react.
Nothing in live is for free, one always has to pay a price – may it be cash, health, freedom or integrity.
In such days, where citizens have to spend their daily live in tent – villages like refugees, phrases such as:
- In every crisis there is a new chance for the future -
are used frequently.

Such phrases are being used from officials and public persons to distract from facts and sweep true responsibilities under a big heavy carpet, hoping that somebody else will fix the problem or at least take the responsibility for it. (Dug and cover)

Ever since 3000 B.C. entire civilizations and so called Superpowers as the ancient Egyptians, Alexander the Great, the Roman Empire, the Han Dynasty, Inkas, Spain, Napoleon, Portugal, Tsar Nikolaus II, the British Empire, the KuK Monarchy, Emperor William II, Adolf Hitler, GDR the USSR and many more have been wiped out for the same reasons:

Greed of rulers for wealth and power
Ignorance of rulers for the needs of the own population
Fear and ignorance of the population towards the rulers
The loss of values
How can a nation believe that there is no conflict off interests and the independence of decisions is secured, if the presidential election campaign is costing millions of dollars, sponsored by multinational companies and lobbies? If it is acceptable to the American public that big money can buy the key to the Oval Office than the American public should not be surprised that obligations have to be met.

The New York Times wrote on July 18th. 2004 that the entire American press has not been critical enough how the Bush administration reasoned the war in Iraq. It was known by than, that Iraq had no biological or nuclear weapons, which was given as the reason for invading Iraq. Yet the American public has re-elected the Mr. Bush for Presidency. Who will take responsibility for:

USD 3 trillion total cost so far
30634 wounded American soldiers
4521 killed Coalition Soldiers, 4207 of which are American soldiers
8760 killed Iraqi Soldiers and Police-forces
1001 killed Members of private Security and Military companies (i.e. Blackwater Worldwide)
As per ORB (Opinion Research Business) between 946,000 and 1,120,000 Iraqi have been killed between March 03 and August 07

This war is not an isolated incident but a consequence of lacking values and some weird self understanding. This war is a second Vietnam which in a similar way and manner has been swept away and covered. Until today the USA has not had the decency to give any aid to the many victims they have caused for no good reason what so ever other than self-righteous bigoted ideology.

In 1963 the world was on the edge of the 3 world war and the first atomic war when the USSR placed missiles in the front garden of the USA.
Today the American public accepts without any criticism that the USA is placing Missiles in the front garden of Russia.

One gets to ask what kind of nation is it, that wants to be a superpower but refuses to sign the Rome Statutes. On May 6th, 2002, the U.S. formally notified the United Nations that the U.S. does not intend to become a party to the Rome statute. This way Mr. Bush avoided to stand accused by the ICC of being a war criminal. Furthermore it is clear evidence that the Bush administration has planned their Invasion well in advance under any circumstances and how they want to conduct this issue.

A nation which accepts that international law and human rights are ignored as it is done until today in Guantanamo Bay has forfeit the claim of being a super power.
A nation that stages a war like a Hollywood science fiction film has lost its sense for respectability.
A nation that accepts death sentences should not pray for god to save America.
A nation that treats 8 Year old children in the same manner than adult criminals have lost the sense for humanity.
A nation that accepts boot-camps for children have lost any sense for any respect for live.

How can such a nation claim to be a world leader if this nation does not even treat their own children with respect?

A nation which needs to wear weapons in their every days live are scared of their community.

A nation that does not take care of those in need is no more than a crowd of individuals without any common interests that ought not try to bully other nations to the same system.
The one who places shareholder value above everything else justifies the exploitation of every working man and woman.
A nation where the only value is money is lost.

Certainly all of that is known by the American folks. The world of today needs a strong USA but based on solid ethic principals to keep other countries from adopting even more and most of all, to keep a balance.

When nowadays citizens from around the world are blaming their governments for not doing any better we should never forget, that any Nation around the world always gets the government it deserves.

Let’s hope for the better - be it in USA, Russia, China or any European country.

Exciting and boring events which we where facing during the last year with extremely outstanding and different circumstances, followed with emotions, successful moments, hope, love, hate, give and take, loosing and winning.

Disregarding those circumstances and special moments, we shall always remember that time is the only value we don’t have unlimited.

No matter whatever will be in 2009, let’s simply face it.

We shall and will always find reason for celebrating the most valuables……
……….Health, happiness, love, family, friends, luck and joy.

I am whishing you and your family a HAPPY NEW YEAR

and remain with kind regards from Moscow

Manfred Hermann

Unfortunately I could not find the E-mail of Mr. Buchanan therefore please be so kind and forward my reply on his article directly to Mr. Buchanan

Moderators: Are you clairvoyant, or what?! The Salman Rushtie piece you installed on Archives (some time ago) works so well with the poetry, and instructs us about hate in the Gazan tragedy. Leave it awhile longer for visitors to meditate over. Sincerely, it focused my energy.

Judiasm, Christianity, and Islam are all related blood sacrifice religions and cultures... The faster they mutually destroy each other, the better off the world will be.

Thoroughly enjoyed the interview with John Lithgow and the poetic dance. Shakespeare is almost all poetry (music) to my mind, mixed with a depth of play, of tragedy, history, and humor. And Lithgow was just a delight as he danced with you Mr. Moyers. Thanks.

A couple of notes. “Shakespeare” was probably a stand in for the Royalty, and in particular, for the Queen who had substantial input to the plays, if not a principle writer. Of course, this is controversial.

Another thing. Sorry to note that your Bill Moyer discussion forum on Faith & Reason is now locked, and that we are now reduced to a few comments rather than a more open dialogue format.

Okay, Bill. I do appreciate the break from headlines, and the poetry as refreshment. Over the holiday break, while reflecting on the past year, and recognizing how much work is still ahead of us in repairing the global damage by Neo-Conservative insurrectionists and thousand-stab-wound murderers, I was able to synthesize some holiday history with pertinent episodes of Bill Moyers Journal, and in so doing achieved the mantra "Think peace."
Here it is without the text (which readers can also find online):

First Maccabees chapter 1

"Rage On The Radio," Bill Moyers Journal, September 12, 2008

First Maccabees chapter 2

Senator Russ Feingold, Bill Moyers Journal, December 5, 2008

First Maccabees chapter 3

Glenn Greenwald, Bill Moyers Journal, December 12, 2008

First Maccabees chapter 4

Sincere thanks to the dedicated staff and financial supporters of Bill Moyers Journal for helping and encouraging ordinary citizens to stay enlightened, informed, and involved.
Phil Crabb

Mr. Moyers' conversation with John Lithgow was a refreshing "slowing down" and exercise in calm, thoughtful reflection as compared to the non-stop, hyperactive and "attention-defecited" cacaphony of opinion screamers spread all over broadcast media like a plague of cerebral ennui. Listening to Lithgow read favorite poems with a warm and almost whispered delivery oozing with the succulence of a favorite dessert was like placing one's bare feet in a natural hot spring after a cold and tiring climb through the mud of the workday...Keeping in mind the ever expanding world of violence and hate that is becoming quite terrifying in its lack, of self awareness, here is a favorite poem of mIne by the often nastily aserbic Charles Bukowski:

"Everywhere, everywhere"

amazing, how grimly we hold onto our
ever defensive, thwarted by
the forces.
amazing, the energy we burn
fueling our anger.
amazing, how one moment we can be
snarling like a beast, then
a few moments later,
forgetting what or

not hours of this or days or
months or years of this
but decades,
completely used up,
given over
to the pettiest
rancor and

there is nothing here for death to

Once again, kudos to Bill Moyers for letting us listen in to another naturally engineered conversation between his superbly inqusitive mind and another real living American who still takes the time to observe, listen and reflect and who is comfortable-in-his-own-skin enough to share it with those of us lucky to be viewing through the boob tube at a rare ,special encounter.

....................Bruce "Rudy" Robertson
.....................Kauai, Hawaii.

Elmer Brassankle wanted me to share these song lyrics, as sung by a girl named Zither in 1929.

Zither’s Song (Brassankle memory 06-23-2007)

Freedom now, freedom now…
Freedom, dignity and justice now.
Say you can’t let us have it?
That mule won’t plow,
We should’ve long had our freedom by now.

Well, we ain’t gonna stand and wait,
While you wave your switch and dangle your bait,
And plot to divide us up with hate,
We’re in the gate, ready to race,
And we’re gonna stampede, not hesitate.

Freedom now, freedom now…
Freedom, dignity and justice now.
Someday you’ll let us have it,
But not right now,
Freedom, dignity and justice now.

We walk five miles to work six days,
Hours so long it’s dark both ways,
On Sunday eat stringy chicken and pray,
That we could see a little piece of our pay,
The company store don’t take away.

When we come by looking for our freedom this evenin’
You pointed at the floor, pointed to the ceilin’
But we could hear our freedom squealin’.
You had it locked up in a pen out back,
Right behind your Cadillac.

Justice was shamed by your foul deed,
But freedom’s heart was filled with glee,
When the preacher knelt and set it free.
Hate to say it, we could tell it,
You was a- tryin’ to take it to market and sell it

You should see him do dancing hambone and hear his Bobby McFerrin technique as he sings it.
Just think, he was presenting it to his art students as a diversion two years ago and now he's unemployed and homeless.

HMMMM! To thine own self be true...
Is this to be hedonistic?
Is it true that you are then true to others?
Should we be true to those who are habitual liars?
When do we punish the war dogs and call murder; murder?
Who do we trust in when corruption is a way of life?
Who will survive when it is survival of the fittest?
When greed is the bases of economics; who will care for the unfortunate?

So many questions and so few answers are forth coming. In the words of Pogo, "We have met the enemy and they are us.
Are we to become so much meat to be minced and done wrongly?
When will human beings remember their humanity?

This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.
~ Willie Shakaspeare, Hamlet

Your interview with John Lithgow was an extraordinary treat.
In our culture where poetry is too often associated with sensitivity and difficulty, your conversation with Lithgow celebrated poetry’s clarity and directness, its many faces and moods. Poetry includes delight and praise, the play of mind and sound, as well as being/it is one of our most skillful ways to express lament, longing, memory, and love.
Children seem to remember this more than adults. I have had the great privilege to teach poetry through the California Poets in the Schools program for many years. When I started teaching, I didn't realize I would be so constantly astonished by the casual profundity of children's words, the directness and transparency of their images, the generosity of their insights. Teaching children has kept me in touch with the power of closely observing and celebrating the world around us, listening to our questions, and developing our own metaphors. Every day that I am in the classroom someone offers a shimmering question or a radiant image or an unadorned statement that startles and enlivens. More and more I have come to believe that such poetry is not rare but it is precious, and it needs nourishing. Some of the best poems are the ones we say to people we love; some are written down and travel across centuries to sustain people in far different lives and circumstances.
Although there are many poems that I love (the fourth section of Kathleen Raine’s poem “To the Sun,” Linda Pastan’s poem “Ethics,” come to mind at the moment), with limited space I am offering this one from an 11 year old.

I remember when the moon began to talk
I don't remember when the sky was born
I have always known that silence is the best speech
I can't put into words the feeling
I have when the wind talks to rain

I remember the whisper of the creek
I don't remember the dream of the redwoods
I have always known the language of the oaks
I don't know how to put into words
the feelings I have when the ocean talks to land.
Susan Fredericks, age 11

David Eddy: So even your own preacher's warning you now. I'd switch churches. (He doesn't know Irene and neither do you or I.)

"Collaborate in your own evolution." Coley Whitesides

I was reminded by a pastor that if you expect to much, you set yourself up for frustration.
We are dependant on our politicians to run the country efficiently and they show no concern for our welfare.
We are bombarded daily by advertising about what we need to be and what we need to buy. The entertainment is ramped with sex and slaughter.
How could we not be frustrated?
There are many problems in our society that need to be addressed and instead of fixing problems; we are stuggling to overcome unnecessary complications.
We need to back down from the materialism and find ways to make life a worthwhile experience.

Mr. Lithgow thank you for uplifting my heart and mind during a most fretful holiday season. If you possibly have the time to reply, I would most graciously like to share a poem I have written with you. Thanks for the inspiration.

Also from Shakespeare

(Ariel:) "Hot blood overleaps the cold decree."

Translation: Obama better lookout! Reagan, Bush, Clinton &Bush have wound the spring of human frustration very tightly.

"Our remedies oft in ourselves do lie." Shakespeare


Here’s one of my all time favorite poems:

Generals gathered in their masses,
Just like witches at black masses.
Evil minds that plot destruction,
Sorcerers of death's construction.
In the fields the bodies burning,
As the war machine keeps turning.
Death and hatred to mankind,
Poisoning their brainwashed minds.
Oh lord, yeah!

Politicians hide themselves away.
They only started the war.
Why should they go out to fight?
They leave that role to the poor.

Time will tell on their power minds,
Making war just for fun.
Treating people just like pawns in chess,
Wait till their judgment day comes.

Now in darkness world stops turning,
Ashes where the bodies burning.
No more War Pigs have the power,
Hand of God has struck the hour.
Day of Judgment, God is calling,
On their knees the war pigs crawling.
Begging mercies for their sins,
Satan, laughing, spreads his wings.
Oh lord, yeah!

~ Black Sabbath, War Pigs

Dear Bill Moyers,
What an outstanding and
inspiring program was your
program with the wonderfully unique individual, in the person of actor Lithrow.
Thank you so much for giving your viewers such a special gift, as well as
all the excellent programs
which you and your staff bring to the world.
Hoping for peace in the new
Adrienne Harber
Boulder, CO

Shake and shake the ketchup bottle
None'll come, and then a lot'll.

- Ogden Nash via my nephew Chris

Thanks Mr. Moyers for a place to write about the power of poetic truth.

See if you like this:


When words have no rules or regulations
And a sentence has no bounds
That is where the poet hides
Where truth can still be found

The word is mightier than the sword they say
When words are truly free
Poetry is the words of a poet
Then the poet has the power of Thee

There is a lesson to learn in poetry
A remedy and a cure
For poetry are words of freedom
And in freedom the truth shall set us free

What is the truth One wonders
In the phrase and phrases of a rhyme
The true poetry of a free poet
Will bring equality to All in Just time

For freedom is equality
Unity of not only mankind
The true words of a poets’ poetry
Is the beautiful true Oneness of All kind.


A truly delightful show. I adore you, Bill Moyers, and it was a treat that John Lithgow was your guest.

I realized he was a man of talent, but didn't know how multidimensional he truly is-- what a fascinating person!

Thanks for the very unusual, stimulating, uplifting, program.

Wow, poetry. Made all the more evocative by the masterful reading of Mr. Lithgow. Would it be possible to get an autographed copy of his book? If not, I surely will own it anyway. So glad Ogden Nash was read. He is one of my favorites, along with Shakespeare, of course. My favorite Sonnet is 121. I write also. It's fun. And necessary.
A couple of mine (very short):
Ogden Nash Rolls Over (In His Grave)
You are busy, busy, busy
While I am lazy,lazy,lazy.
Busy busy busy
Drives lazy lazy crazy.
And what is even often worser,

Short Life, Long Lesson
His youthful face
Was fierce in death.
Still dead.

Men at Play
We're little children, playing in the sand.
Pail and shovel, ever restless hand.
With furrowed brow our castles elevate.
When finished we take time to celebrate.
Until, some bored, we grab our trusty shovel,
And purposeful, turn majesty to hovel.

I thank you for your attention.

The hum of neutrons in endless collision
Permeates the space.
Heavy plastics form a fine shield preventing
Passengers from being Atomized.
No two people alike travel time and space.
Their future quickly fading behind.
The ship is the Rainbow Express.

The chatter of speech becomes stillborn.
Eyes search the heavens.
Fragile systems and delicate balances
Protect fragile passengers on a small planet.
Other places come unglued in great celestial storms.
Flashing electrons, neutrons and photons
Track and Interact without being affected.
People live their life, male and female
Experiencing their journey as physical beings.

Acceleration turns cheeks inward.
Breathing is quickened as expectations swell.
The mind expands its horizons.
The end of the trip is fast approaching.
At first the future is chaos, colors blur.
Some unknown force orders the universe.
Nuclear force seeks specific gravity.
Sub-atomic particles form atoms.
Atoms form molecules,
Molecules form amino acids,
Amino acids form protein.
Water condenses and a rainbow appears.
The dog scratches the screen to get out.
D. Eddy
I hope you enjoy this poem from my book Earthland: Meaningful Reality.
My favorite poem is the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge.
I memorized this poem for an English class.

A quote;
God save thee ancient mariner!
From the fiends that plaque thee thus-
Why look'st thou so?" - "With my crossbow
I shot the Albatross...

Sometimes I feel like the Ancient Mariner who had a tale to tell that no one wanted to hear.
The Republicans have killed the albatross and now we are dead in the water. Can we get the ship of state moving again or are we to suffer the fate of the Mariners ship?

I rarely gush over celebrities or actors. But tonight I intend to do it with gusto... John Lithgow is one of those people I would love to have dinner with. He is such an eclectic blend of fun and class and depth. I had known his work as a character actor in movies and had heard he was a stage actor and children's book author, and then I fell in love with his comedy on Third Rock From the Sun. He is a multifaceted force of wonder. What a delightful program.
And happily I can watch this interview again on the website, and read the transcript.

Attention Bill Moyers: Who was it, who said,” if you ask a young man why he wants to be a poet and he says, "I have something important I want to say," then he's not going be a poet. But if you ask him, "Why do you want to be a poet?" And he says, "Because I love the play of the word, the language." Then you know he's going to be a poet.”
When you posed that following comment/question to John Lithgow, he only said “Yeah”.
So neither of you know?? Can you find out for us??

There once was a man named Lithgow.
On Moyer’s Journal one night he did go.
The poetry was amazing.
His intelligence fascinating
Everything considered, a fine quality show.

Signed. I ain’t no poet and yes, I already know it.
Apologies to poets and poetry lovers everywhere.
(For blame, see everyone else)

I do enjoy Lithgow (as John Worfin/Emilio Lazardo best!) and, especially enjoy Thomas' "Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night", though I can't agree that I felt he really read it as well as I imagined he would.

I was reading Dylan Thomas in my teens, affecting a literary persona to impress a girl, when I noticed that my father opened his daily newspaper to the obituary page first, every day. Mortality was on his mind.

I taped "Do Not Go Gentle..." over an obit one day and, shortly after, gave him a back rub that led to the discovery of his colorectal cancer, his colostomy, and his survival until 83.

Perhaps that emotional memory would have inspired a more heartfelt reading in John. It would in me.

I recommend Edgar Lee Masters' "George Gray" out of Spoon River Anthology, also. My Dad's father bore that name, though he died in WWI before he was born, so I always took it as advice to us both from the grave. (Won a Dead Poets Halloween poetry slam in New Haven with it and others from the anthology, as well.)

John Lithgow
Want you to know
I admire you so.
Poems read
Stay in my head
My soul is fed
All My Sons
If it runs
In Toronto
Want you to know
I'll surely go.

Great show! I’ve been a fan of John Lithgow for many years, but I never knew the tall goofy alien on 3rd Rock was so gifted. I’ve become bored with crossword and Sudoku puzzles, so poetry is now one of my growing interests. Mr. Lithgow was the perfect guest, and he enlightened me to meaning, music and emotion; meaning and music were obvious, but I was unaware of emotion. And Mr. Moyers pointed out how the love of playing with words is more important than having something important to say; I’m still working on this one.

Here’s something important I’d like to say. Easy on the critique, I'm still a pollywog.


Open your eyes, for can you not see?
Can you not see what they’ve done to thee?
Land war distractions engulf your TV,
Hiding the theft of global currency.

Dragoons attack, three by three,
The fog in Mumbai rolls in from the sea.
Pointing one’s finger at the lone Pakistani,
While Saudi inciters, quietly they flee.

Candles glide high above the olive tree,
Then silence of innocence screams out from debris.
Blaming Hamas you all can agree,
But, why have you forgotten who funds their money?

Open your eyes, for can you not see?
Can you not see what they’ve done to thee?
Land war distractions engulf your TV,
Fighting proxy wars while avoiding your enemy.

Bill, thank you for all you've done for our country.

Happy New Year.

Thank you for showing us the various aspects of John Lithgo. What he said about the three aspects of a turn of a phrase, the meaning, the emotion and the music resonated with me. . It is hearing the music that first attracts us to the poem and it is with the second or third reading that we begin to better understand the meaning, feel the emotion and it is with memorization and recitation that we fully embrace it. Claire Vreeland, northwestern Connecticut.

A fascinating and important discussion.

C. Deleze, this link is better (no misspellings)

C. Deleze, dat would be Willy Shakaspeare

Thank you for having Mr. Lithgow on your show. It was a fascinating interview with a very impressive person.

Can you please tell me where I can find the poem John Lithgow was reciting, that included the phrase, "Be Not Afraid of the Hot Sun"?

As one who has traveled all over reciting poetry, I thoroughly enjoyed listening to Mr. Lithgow. And I highly recommend "Head Injury" by Roger McGough, surely one of Englands great living poets.

Thank you for an extraordinary Journal on January 2nd, Mr. Moyers, and that compelling look at poetry. Only someone made of straw could not have been moved by John Lithgow's magnificent delivery of Dylan Thomas's "Do Not Go Gentle Into That Night."

Thank you, too, Mr. Moyers, for that heartfelt tribute to Al Meyerhoff, a remarkable human being and foot soldier in the fight against poverty, and economic injustice, who is missed already.

Thank you, for a wonderful, meaningful conversation with Mr.Lithgow. Please tell me the name of Shakesphere's work that Mr. Lithgow read at his own father's funeral. I appreciate knowing the "truth" behind the writing, but more importantly, would like to know the name of that piece. Carole

Ah, a breath of fresh air, to listen to the Journal last night. I have been memorizing peoms and sharing with coworkers for 6 months, a wonderful respite to an often harried, stressful day as a nurse. I did it for the memory boost I thought I'd get, but that's just a side effect... it's the sound of the language, the spoken language that does it. You encapsulated it all in your discussion, thank you!

Perfect show. Thank you.

Life's Poetry, while words only half the man.

A holy stance, to stand under a stand.

Meter, assonance her consequence

in daily motion. Emotion riding

lithe metaphor; her means of meaning.

Poetry is alive behind the veil,

lift to kiss the bride, bring her close to your lips

and sip her nectar, breath her breath to dusk.

Thank you for the show last night. It garnered much thoughtful dicussion in our house and a poem besides.

John Lithgow's motivation for the book (inspiration from the autistic resource group presentations ACCESS,, was very meaningful. His description of the group as "positve, proactive, and powerful" exactly describe our friends. Their commitment to caring for their son's autistic needs is humbling and admirable. John Lithgow's work stands apart from the banality of today's mainstream media offerings. Thank you PBS for the quality in depth attention to this very important issue.

Thank you John Lithgow and Bill Moyers!

Speaking of war poetry; the young man in the ball turret; from across the centuries, the men of Thermopylae…

"Go tell it"—What a Message—
To whom—is specified—
Not murmur—not endearment—
But simply—we—obeyed—
Obeyed—a Lure—a Longing?
Oh Nature—none of this—
To Law—said sweet Thermopylae
I give my dying Kiss—
- Emily Dickinson

For me, it has got to be Robert Frost's The Path Less Traveled. I learned to recite this one in high school and have never forgotten it some 30 years later. :-)

Here is my second comment, in part because I was so taken by John Lithgow's "It's just a very different type of music - it's like listening to Eric Satie and Bach," and in part due to a dumb typo in entering my poem "ORB" and omitting the "l" in "world." Since I was a teen, Johann Seb. Bach's music, has remained the music I savor most. Below is my poetic response to one of his finest chorale preludes for pipe organ: "How Brightly Shines The Morning Star." Starting with IGHT in "brightly," I put the four letters in upper case. My brother, David L. Rodgers, decided that the letters begged to be seen in yellow. Imagine, then, how the effect might be. A very adroit young organist later told me this effect made sense to her musically. I wrote the poem in March 2006 in honor of Bach's 421st birthday. I hope that Mr. Moyers and Mr. Lithgow find it pleasing.

How BrIGHTly Shines
the Morning Star!

This second morning of springtime found me almost
fIGHTing to keep by balance as I knelt before brIGHT yellow and ivory daffodils - tIGHT bunch of them a few yards from the street, hoping to register the sIGHT if not a pungent scent drifting from ther weaving, frilled trumpets to the heIGHT of my gaze and level with the camera which mIGHT take up some very distant lIGHT planet Venus directed to this spot as it has since the Earth and its eIGHT or more sisters hurled their weIGHT into orbits around this minor star. Herr Bach,Cantor, these few words to wish you one more birthday morning while I savor the lIGHTs you deftly ignited with your fingers and so often your feet, your mIGHTy voice still to be heard when later this season I embed yet more of these brIGHT spring bulbs and more sweet fires next March.

-- Frederick G. Rodgers
c. Portland, OREGON

Two young men who don't give a "crap" about poetry but listened anyway. Another young man who understood nothing. What a shame. What a waste. Ellen, a grandmother.

It was a great pleasure to learn what John Lithgow had to share on the subject of poetry. An octogenarian, I have given my share of time to the world of words, as an editor and as a student of poetry. My love is for poetry that is musical; that is why Dylan Thomas, Yeats, Frost and Shakespeare have given me such pleasure and inspiration. Frost's idea of "sound and sense" has been a guide to me; and now I will also benefit from Lithgow's summation of poetry's elements as meaning, music and emotion. Oddly enough, I can't say that emotion has been a "requirement" per se. I mean, I haven't isolated it from its cause. However I realize that it is imperative to hear the music in words that can do justice to arousing emotions. What is mysterious is how we find the depth of our own emotions and know the valid from formless anxieties or discontents. One more comment:
I had been trying last night to recite from memory the dirge from Shakespeare for a friend who is terrified of thunderstorms. Alas, I had to go to my volume of collected works in order to go all the way to the end. I cannot hear the words of this dirge without feeling its emotional impact. I believe that Bernard Shaw recited this piece at his sister's funeral for the reason of her fear of thunderstorms. He must have taken it, too, at face value; much as many of us take Polonius's advice at face value.
At any rate I would give anything to have a memory as keen as Lithgow's grandmother's. Thanks for having him on; he made poetry matter to the listeners, I am sure. And to you, how grateful people are to have your journal. Bless you.

Here is a poem I wrote in l972, partly in response to part of a statement by W. H. Auden and before some of our contemporary quagmires emerged. In the original, spaces between words and lines mattered; I will see if I can replicate them. If not, the perhaps the words in the usual format will suffice.


"Already a helpless dog has blinked at our sorry, conceited O, where many are famished, few look good." W. H. Auden

who have travelled much
know that the geography
of the heart
learned or
received --

it is



in the bright agony
of journeys without

into those fabled, unknown places we hear about but will never see


marvelously exhausted,
we stand in the future
of ourselves
after all that

our word



-- Frederick Rodgers
Portland, Oregon
c. l972

The words are timeless because time is just an illusion.

If words have meaning they endure to all those who have the ability to understand.

To not have the ability to understand does not make your life energy lesser.

But to not take the time to understand when you have the ability is a crime against your own being.

I cannot be as eloquent as some of the posters but I enjoyed the program as well. My deceased father wrote poetry and I was never that much into it. He did write a poem about me that was published in the New Yorker called Crying..a short poem about me as a baby. Thank you for giving me a new appreciation for the art of words. Refreshing television as always, Mr. Moyers. Victor G.

I just got done watching John Lithgow! Wow! What an interesting man.He gives words life. He is amazing if you take the time to listen. I'm very glad I did.

Thanks for the wonderful conversation with John Lithgow

A Sonnet

Zero Sum

touch stone touch wood touch bases tender touch
of lovers touch of madness torrid wind
a kamikazi pilot in the clutch
of emptiness of zero of wings pinned

of origami flutterby aloft
no more to touch down tendril to the sky
above the ground below the root the cost
not pilotage nor dotage to deny

nor to affirm nor lose a firmer terror
the flattering of earth of anchorage
stranded at sea in pining and in error
with god lost jubilation breath with rage

i am i am not here again today
and being so not being bombs away

Robin Ridington

Every Journal by Bill Moyers is the highlight of our week, but this one not
only spoke to the head, but very much
to the heart. John Lighgow recalled how
his grandmother recited long story poems by memory even into her eighties. My grandmother and mother
both recited from memory some of the
same poems and also others such as
"The Curfew Shall Not Ring Tonight,"
"Little Orphan Annie" and "Casey at the
Bat." I'm sure that their recitations
influenced me to write poetry, as well.

Many of the poems in the program had
to do with death, so I looked at my own
collection and found this poem written
last year. It could just as well have been
written today.


Every Sunday morning
I have a date with death.
Scrolling down my TV screen:
A week’s casualties of war.
Iraq’s and Afghanistan’s
announced as if a score.
The names roll by too fast.
I scan for woman or man,
Check their names and check their ages
19, 20, 21—still so young, so very young!
28, 35, 40—Did they leave children crying?
What about the others dying?
They do not fill the screen.
Some of these dead warriors
may have killed these others
as their own hearts ceased.
And the message says,
“Gone forever!”
Forever on both sides,
while those remaining
cry out together,
“Peace, please, peace!”

Breeze Bryson

I do not generally watch television but made an exception and tuned into Bill Moyers' interview of John Lithgow, which was an extraordinarily aesthetic program. The beauty of the poetry, the clips from the dramatic performances, the spontaneous responses by the actor all were so mesmerizing that I actually enjoyed watching television. Thank you for a work of great beauty in a medium that usually offers only facile entertainment.

Love John Lithgow, and thank you for the evening.

Now, that said, a thought on your Meyerhoff obit: As one who also despises bullies, and takes seriously the problem of unwholesome and toxic things around us due to irresponsible legislators and businesses, let me say (pause for breath)...

We have a new age impending. Rather than stridently defending against poisoners, we need to be careful about our own irrationalities. Here's why: In order to keep 9 billion people out of destructive poverty, we need every resource we can muster (impoverished people are much more destructive to environment than are secure people).

The point: for every terribly toxic "chemical," there are hundreds which are relatively benign and sometimes desperately needed. For every somewhat noxious "chemical" there are dozens (or more) which are entirely benign. Nature makes "chemicals" too, we have to remember. We need to be rational about the cultivation of fears and selective about the targets of protests. Some of these agents are much more "natural" than they sound, and valuable for getting people over a hump of starvation.

Materially secure Americans and Europeans with limited knowledge have sometimes thrown out the baby with the bathwater in protests which have the unintended consequence of contributing to hunger and disease elsewhere. We must save the planet, for shizzle, but we must become more sophisticated about our methods, and subtle about when to join battle and with whom. And supportive of some things which sound scary.

Please Bill, bring Meyerhoff's legacy into the 21st century. Consult some concerned scientists, or whatever, before anymore ill-considered campaigns of protest. We can't all get our meals at Whole Foods, and some of us have to work around hazardous materials that we all may live. Let us work to protect them, not shut them down.

davy B

I am a teacher of "alternative ed" kids - middle and high school age. I will find John Lithgow's book tomorrow to add to the resources I use to try to open up the magic of poetry to my students. His reading of "How do I love thee....." brought me to tears as I remembered my husband Kevin (Doc Baker of Little House on the Prairie)who died at age 77 in 2005, and my son, Eric, an Army helicopter pilot who died in El Salvador in 1991 at the age of 21. Two different kinds of love, both so perfectly expressed by that poem.
Neither one went quietly into that dark night. Thanks for an interview of extraordinary depth and range of feeling.

Thank you for the splendid interview with John Lithgow. Here's a poem for him from an Oregon poet, William Stafford:

Late, at the beginning of cold,
you push your breath toward home.
Silence waits at the door.
You stamp, go in, start the fire--
from any part of the room I suddenly say,
"Hello," but do not get in your way.

Quiet as all books, I wait, and promise
we'll watch the night: you turn a page;
winter misses a stride. You see
the reason for time, for everything in the sky.
And into your eyes I climb, on the strongest
thread in the world, weaving the dark and the cold.

Please send it along to him.

Dear John "who gives a crap"- please note Fox TV is channel 11, not 28. Better luck next time.

I just watched the movie Babel yesterday and was struck by how we all are guilty of talking but not really listening to one another. The way your program was presented helped me to really hear the meaning in the words of the poems John read. Bill, thank you for speaking in a way that allows us to hear and understand. I look forward to all of your programs but this one was especially beneficial. The arts are the universal language if we will only take the time and effort to listen. Thanks for helping to open our eyes and ears!

john lithgow >. who gives a crap about what he has to say >. i would rather have watched an episode of 3rd rock from the sun

Thank you for another inspiring hour with "Bill Moyers Journal." Your guest, Mr. John Lithgow, brought back my days as an Enlish Literature major at UC Berkeley. I felt so calm and "soulful" as Mr. Lithgow read the poems from his book. Your questions, and comments were--I felt I was in a dance of words, emotions and art. Beautiful. I am going to purchase Mr. Lithgow's book and read what made me fall in love with the beauty of poetry, literature, and imagination. Thank you, Mr. Moyers. A healthy, safe, and a better New Year for us all.

Inspired by this wonderful program with Bill Moyers and John Lithgow, I decided to write this quick little respnse to many things touched on in the show. Thank you.

It’s Time

It’s time
Pursue the ravages
Histories savages
Wake up to the call
For oneself and for all
100 monkeys
Theoretical junkies
It’s time
Before it’s too late
Won’t be able to investigate
Missing persons
Lost Shakespeare and Yeats
Pictures and frames
Or 1000 word games
It’s time
Close the flood gates
Future’s at stake
Expose the fakes
Fix the mistakes
Record books
Cooked for good looks
It’s time
Pony up to the crime
Of humanity
Bailing out insanity
Raise awareness
Of the written line
The power of the rhyme
It’s time

I watch The Journal every Friday evening and really like the interviews. This one tonight was a gift. Thank you! Fifty-six years ago I had lines from Elizabeth Barrett Browning's poem engraved on my husband's wedding band. It was a real thrill to hear that poem read by John Lithgow.

Thanks, PBS and Bill Moyers for inviting John Lithgow to appear on your program. John Lithgow, like Bill Moyers, is an American treasure. His wit, talent, and love of life and language are inspirational. His is a life well lived.

As a new convert to poetry, it is so much about the play of the language that draws you in. It’s the cocktail mix of describing an ordinary day and its profoundness at the same time. Here’s a perfect example:

Poem: "Love Poem with Toast" by Miller Williams, from Some Jazz a While: Collected Poems.

Some of what we do, we do
to make things happen,
the alarm to wake us up, the coffee to perc,
the car to start.

The rest of what we do, we do
trying to keep something from doing something
the skin from aging, the hoe from rusting,
the truth from getting out.

With yes and no like the poles of a battery
powering our passage through the days,
we move, as we call it, forward,
wanting to be wanted,
wanting not to lose the rain forest,
wanting the water to boil,
wanting not to have cancer,
wanting to be home by dark,
wanting not to run out of gas,

as each of us wants the other
watching at the end,
as both want not to leave the other alone,
as wanting to love beyond this meat and bone,
we gaze across breakfast and pretend.

I have many favorite poems, but this has always guided me. My grandmother made me memorize it. "Each day you are writing a letter to men, take care that the writing is true. It's the only gospel some men will read. It's the gospel according to you.

Excellent, excellent, excellent! Thank you, Bill Moyers, for outstanding programs, this one included! And thanks as well to John Lithgow. Beautiful and insightful hour. ....Margaret

What a hopeful beginning to 2009 - oh, thank you so much for this lovely evening. The exchange between Moyers and Lithgow was wonderful. The language, splendid!

We need to track tough subjects and count on Moyers for leading us there, but this was a wonderful change of theme. Bravo!

Who but Bill Moyers would start the new year with an outrageous celebration of poetry's dubious relevance?


And thanks also to John Lithgow's similarly afflicted parents.

"How red the rose that is the soldier's wound,
The wounds of many soldiers, the wounds of all
The soldiers that have fallen, red in blood,
The soldier of time grown deathless in great size."
-Wallace Stevens

I would love to read the op-ed piece written by the attorney - can you direct me to the correct link on your webpage?
Bill Moyers interviewing John Lithgow? It can't get better than that! Well, maybe Joseph Campbell -

If ever there were a man...

Thank you Mr. Lithgow!

Thanks for another wonderful and meaningful program. I look forward to another year with Bill Moyers.

John Lithgow was magical to listen to. A true poet himself and perhaps as wonderful as his language.
Thank you for this delightful interview.

My favorite poems are all over the lot, but I think what I like about most of them is that they contain little epiphanies, bright little insights into reality that come packed in dense emotions, ideologies, or historical and cultural references. The emotions, ideologies and cultural references may overlap or clash violently, but good poems expand our sense of being human by illuminating them, one after one.

"To Althea, From Prison" is one wonderful poem, with its reminder that "Stone walls do not a prison make, nor iron bars a cage." Also excellent are John Donne's metaphysical and highly erotic love poems once the professors have explained their symbolism.

I also love Brecht's poem "To a Worker Reads History" and his bleak but moving "To Those Who Come After," where he speaks of living in a time so hard "That to speak of trees is almost a crime, because it means silence about so many horrors."

Alexander Pope's "Essay on Man" is much too long, but parts of it are brilliant. I thank Christina Rosetti, Edna St. Vincent Millay and Edward Fitzgerald (in the Rubaiyat) for having written three mutually contradictory but profoundly sane poems about death -- Rosetti wisely and gracefully accepting its inevitability, Millay declaring "Yet I am still not reconciled," and Fitzgerald setting mortality to drunken music.

Some of my other favorites include the short Gwendolyn Brooks poem "We Real Cool," Edwin Arlington Robinson's "Richard Cory," the "Extravagaria" poems of Pablo Neruda, and Don Marquis's golden nonsense verses about archy & methitabel.

"Lapis Lazuli" by Yeats, "The Market Economy" by Marge Piercy, Dylan Thomas's "The force that through the green fuse drives the flower" and Blake's "Tyger, Tyger" and "Chapel of Love" are excellent also.

Taken together, poems like these illuminate with passion and eloquence some of the most contradictory facets of our culture and our human condition. They capture our attention by speaking to our hearts but then focus the attention outwards, towards universals. The good poets sing, too.

With 3 e-books and over 600 poems written,
the poem in my mind this week is the following:

A Missile for a Stone -
a Jewish State but no Palestinian Home!

The roots of war, in a Jewish town
is fear from the camps, spread all around
in Gaza strip, on the West Bank
are refugee camps, filled with Jewish hate.
As what is feared, is dished out hate
that feeds and grows, as hate feeds hate.
Containing it, won’t stop hate
to lock up a lie, it just doesn’t die
but festers and grows
and kids who throw
rocks at US tanks and US planes
armed with missiles,
with electronic brains
shoots down kids, who throw stones
because where they live, is surrounded by hate.
For decades they went, petition in hand
to courts with laws, in every land
but Jewish fear and an Israeli state
sealed the words, out at the gate
no way, no reason, no court, no law
would go against, illogical Jewish law
of a right to exist, as a Jewish State
a right not given, to Palestinians of late
so a third world war, brews and grows
from fear instilled, a long time ago
so an eye for an eye, a missile for a stone
a Jewish state, but no Palestinian home.

© Copyright Theresa Marie K. Gandhi 3/3/2002

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