Thursday, December 15, 2011
Pacific Grove’s Poet-in-Residence, Dr. Barbara Mossberg, quotes American poet William Carlos Williams to describe her latest fascination:
“It is difficult / to get the news from poems / yet men die miserably every day / for lack / of what is found there.”
In that spirit, Mossberg’s recent projects explore the relationships between art, journalism and the social condition.
The first component of her vision is an exhibition of more than a dozen newspaper articles, each paired with responses by artists and poets, on display at the P.G. Library until Jan. 13. Mossberg’s own contribution is a poem about the sighting in the Sierra of a fox previously thought to be extinct, as reported in The San Francisco Chronicle.
“Barbara is able to tie our everyday life, and the news of the world, with poetry and the arts,” P.G. Senior Librarian Lisa Maddalena says. “This art exhibit deals with everything from illegal immigration to the environment, and ranges from historical to very current.”
Mossberg notes that the participating artists chose mostly good-news stories.
“It shows you what kind of news articles are singled out by people whose practice and devotion is in the arts,” she said. “What do they think is a significant news item?”
Inspired by that question, she organized a Dec. 12 panel discussion at P.G. City Hall. The sparsely attended event presented Mossberg with representatives from the Weekly and Cedar Street Times, local media consultant and former Monterey County Herald associate editor Lewis Leader, Computerworld blogger Seth Weintraub and visual artist Robert Lewis, formerly of The Baltimore Sun.
Topics included credibility and consumer skepticism in the rapidly changing journalism industry, and the revenue losses to local news outlets as advertisers and readers go digital.
“It’s not hard to publish anymore,” Weintraub said. “You just need WordPress and a keyboard.”
Mossberg – whose multiple titles include emerita president of Goddard College, director of Integrated Studies at CSU Monterey Bay, host of KRXA radio show “The Poetry Slow Down” and Huffington Post blogger – is now working on a book, The Butterfly and the Glacier, “on the unlikely role of arts and the humanities in civil and human rights, environmental legislation and war and peace.”
The grim realities of her topics don’t dampen Mossberg’s cheerfulness.
“I want it to be hopeful,” she says.