Friday, August 30, 2013

Robert Bly: Writing Again

Photo by ecstaticist

A couple of weeks ago I did a post with a poem from This Tree Will Be Here For A Thousand Years (revised edition) by Robert Bly and mentioned I would be getting back to it. 

Back we are - here's another poem from that collection which I like very much.

Writing Again

   Faces crowding at the window!
   I turn away,

   When I write of moral things,
   The clouds boil
   By day's end
   A room of restless people,
   Lifting and putting down small things.

   Well that is how I've spent this day.
   And what good will it do me in the grave?

        ~ Robert Bly 

Not unlike the part of the poem, "Women We Love Whom We Never See Again," I quoted previously, the opening here feels like we are in the other place, the land of dream, of archetype, of the subconscious.

And what of the title?

I suppose there are a lot of ways to read that last line, that question, and I would suggest that some of them are positive. But I'll leave that to you, the reader - is it something that feels negative, positive, indifferent? Just a conjurer's trick, or something more?

For me, the answer is in the first stanza.

The Month of the Grape Harvest by René Magritte (click to enlarge)

faces of devils
faces of foxes...
spring breeze
translated by David G. Lanoue

Study for The Month of the Grape Harvest (click to enlarge)


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Theresa Williams said...

There was an article about Bly in the latesr Writer's Chronicle. For the most part, he hasn't fared well in academic circles. I enjoy much...if not most...of his work. Nice post!

Issa's Untidy Hut said...

Thanks, Theresa.

Bly's work became highly polarized when he was viewed as the leader of the "Men's Movement," when he wrote Iron John.

Most poetry readers knew better - he spoke metaphorically and was taken literally, as happens with bible thumpers and the book they are constantly thumping to shake out something that just isn't there.

Bly is one of my favorites though I argue with him (on the page) all the time.

Or maybe because I argue with him all the time.

Theresa Williams said...

There is no one like him in the world and the world is better because of him.

Issa's Untidy Hut said...

There it is ... thanks, Theresa ...

Ed Baker said...

in mid 60's he marched on the pentagon..... with Spock and Coretta Scott king and others....

all along the route of the march the morons who were
supporting the American War.... you know.... the one in Viet Nam
when we used all of those chemical weapons (agent orange, napalm, etc


I was a few rows back from the lead folks ( didn't go all the way though)

and people who were supporting this stupid war were shouting:

"go back to Russia, you damn communists !"

so he and lots of others were 'out of favor' with the mainstream morons long before Iron John.

wasn't Iron John written about 30-35 years after all of his War Protest poems ? as I recall, Robert Duncan and Denis Levertov were also "right there".

nothing sissy-assed about them.... not like today's
insipid safety-first boring poets and their 'fail-safe' poems, eh ?

I do believe that Frank O'Hara was doing protest "stuff" too.... you know.... theater up in New York

so the 60's and early 70's:

the Women's Lib Movement, the Civil Rights Movement and the Anti-War Movement.... our Amerikan Holy Trinity .... everything else is Horse Shit

Issa's Untidy Hut said...


Pardon my lack of specificity ... I was referring to a later time period, a different controversy, a whole generation later, as you point out. Perhaps "Became" should have been "Became again" or "was further polarized" ...

All you say, of course, is very true and I appreciate the reminder, since I, too, was out protesting against that other war and not reading about it in the history books or standing on the sidelines yelling derisively at those who found war repellent such as yourself.

So, how about that poem, eh?

Ed Baker said...

the word

(and EVERY word in this poem (Writing Again) is doing
it s job ..... precisely)

and what I come to re Bly AND his poems and this one and the one that you link to (Women We Love Whom We Never See Again)


I've had a picture hanging on my wall (here since '72 and at my other place around the corner at around 1967 or so on a wall there)

and this picture sure does FIT specifically Bly's

"Women We Love Whom We Never See Again"


I'll scan it and send it to you.....

here is a bit more ...
did you know that we (the Allies, who were we) were bombing Hanoi in 1945 !

I guess we were after them Japanese (who were controlling both the Frewnch AND the Viet Namese..

try a book that I am now reading: THE SACRED WILLOW