Tucked into the design of a book cover is a small cabin, lit from the inside, with the silhouette of a woman, looking outward. The cottage depicts “Poet’s Perch,” an 1892 cottage two blocks from Lovers Point, and bequeathed to Pacific Grove in 2000 by the late writer and poet Whitney Latham Lechich for use in poetry. Including a poet in residence.
The “Woman Looking Out” portrays Dr Barbara Clarke Mossberg, the city’s poet emeritus and Poet’s Perch poet in residence from 2010 to 2015. Mossberg’s book is “Here For The Present: A Grammar of Happiness in the Present Imperfect, Live from the poet’s perch.
The cover design is owned by his daughter, illustrator Sophia Mossberg, a graduate of Stevenson School. The Oregon Assistant State Attorney General and also an artist has, his mother said, brightened up her family’s life “since she first broke a pencil to find her color.”
Mossberg has traveled all over the world, staying just long enough to lecture, contribute to a conference, or attend a presidential inauguration. Sometimes she took root and became a full professor at the University of Oregon and CSU in Monterey Bay, as well as president emeritus of Goddard College. So she could have founded a book of poetry anywhere. She chose Pacific Grove.
Mossberg had to audition to become a poet in residence at Poet’s Perch. But anyone whose aspiration is to create “no place safe from poetry,” who speaks by opening lines with words that reflect what residents feel about their own home, quickly convinced them. She began her hearing with the words of Librarian of Congress and US Laureate Mark Strand:
“Ink is flowing from the corners of my mouth. There is no happiness like mine. I eat poetry. “
Mossberg took up residence soon after, moving into Poet’s Perch “as wide as a hug.” Wherever she is, she keeps writing from there, in her head, including much of her new book.
“The Pacific Grove community has such a wonderful philosophy for creativity and education,” Mossberg said. “I wanted this book to be a response to this love and this food, and to be a gift to this place that I love so much. I truly came of age as a creative person in Pacific Grove.
The title of Mossberg’s book offers a double meaning of language and life lessons in being “here for the present” while finding ways to celebrate life, however “imperfect”. The idea began with a post from the prolific children’s author, the late Beverly Cleary, via her book, “Ramona the Pest”.
In Cleary’s second book in her “Ramona” series, the child is escorted to his chair by his kindergarten teacher who says, “Sit here for the present. Ecstatic, Ramona stays in this chair all day, not wanting to leave until she has received her gift.
“When I became a Poet in Residence,” Mossberg said, “my main goal was that everyone could feel poetic, could be here ‘for the presence’, thus increasing their sense of majesty, wonder and sense of place.I hope people can fully embrace the present even though it is a temporary and imperfect experience.
It’s okay if it doesn’t rhyme
This is a rare photograph where Mossberg is not leaning towards the camera, with light in his eyes and laughter on his lips. Her book, published in June, is as exuberant as she is. It is not, simply, a collection of poetry. It’s Barbara Mossberg, the wife and scholar, mother, actress, author and, yes, poet, hanging out with her readers, like over coffee and, sometimes, something you sip from a glass. foot by passing the intrigue of his imperfect life and ours. But yes, because it’s Barbara Mossberg, it’s quite poetic.
In fact, Mossberg may well have a doctorate. in descriptive detail.
Among 188 pages, it offers poems and stories, both serious and humorous, as well as tributes and travel memoirs, love songs and parables, all determined to ignite the consciousness of streets and sidewalks, trails and beaches, and seagulls takes place in Pacific Grove – and beyond.
“I have lectured all over the world and been president of venues,” she said, “but here on the peninsula I could be a poet and perform on stage and on the page. could be all that creative, wacky person – as my husband says – seriously hilarious. This community embraces that sense of exuberant creativity, allowing us to be seen and heard.
Poetry is not the business of a city, she writes in her prologue. “You could say that as a reasonable person,” she continues, “unless you know Pacific Grove. The city of Pacific Grove, more underwater than land, an arrow, an outcrop, a push on all fours along the sea-splashed Pacific coast where whales and otters and seals find a home, where the monarch butterflies imitate the leaves … “
The words she seems to pull from her heart and string into descriptions make us want to keep reading or maybe move to this summer camp turned town by the bay.
Mossberg is so accomplished in the world of letters that one would assume that she is difficult to reach up there, behind the podium in the badges of a scholar. Until we read her words or hear her podcast, “Poetry Slow Down,” and realize that she is more like that wise friend who knows us better than we know ourselves. Or so it seems.
Published by Patricia Hamilton’s Park Place Productions under the label “Pacific Grove Books”, “Here For The Present: A Grammar of Happiness in the Present Imperfect, Live from the Poet’s Perch” by Mossberg is available at amazon.com.