We note today the passing of another great poet, Robert Bly, eminent poet and activist.
He passed away yesterday (“Dad had no pain. … His whole family was around him”, reports his daughter, Mary Bly).
He was 94.
We wish his family and those who knew him (and most importantly, Robert himself), peace.
Peace and love – (not cliched, idle words) – were very much his life-time commitment, his motivation – (most notably, in his heroic ‘Sixties activism – in being one of the prominent figures (alongside Allen) reading and performing on the college campuses, drumming up support against the barbarities and iniquities of the Vietnam War)
Allen and he can be heard reading here, (from 1969, along with poets Robert Sund and John Anderson) at Portland, Oregon, in a reading sponsored by Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) and the New University Conference.
We’ll draw your attention also to the remarkable “The Teeth Mother Naked. At Last” (from 1970 – from City Lights)
Don’t miss also this – “Rays of Distant Bly Light From A Rare Stellar Convergence” by Mark Gustafson, focusing on this iconic photo, picking up the story and taking it up to 1995
The later fame and notoriety that came with the monumental success of his prose meditation on male identity – Iron John complicates the picture a little.
As Robert D McFadden writes, (writing in the obituary notice in the New York Times):
“The book touched a nerve. It was on The New York Times’s best-seller list for 62 weeks, including 10 weeks as No. 1, and was translated into many languages.
Mr. Bly was profiled in newspapers, magazines and a 90-minute PBS special by Bill Moyers, who called him “the most influential poet writing today.” He became a cultural phenomenon, a father figure to millions. He held men-only seminars and weekend retreats, gatherings often in the woods with men around campfires thumping drums, making masks, hugging, dancing and reading poetry aloud.
He said his “mythopoetic men’s movement” was not intended to turn men against women. But many women called it a put-down, an atavistic reaction to the feminist movement. Cartoonists and talk-show hosts ridiculed it, dismissing it as tree-hugging self-indulgence by middle-class baby boomers. Mr. Bly, a shambling white-haired guru who strummed a bouzouki and wore colorful vests, was easily mocked as Iron John himself, a hairy wild man who, in the German myth, helped aimless princes in their quests”
Bly’s reputation as a poet (and it, should also be noted, as a translator) may well have been occluded but it certainly wasn’t eclipsed.
Laurie Hertzel writes at length on him in the Minnesota Star Tribune, his local paper – here (and (from back in 2009) here)
Read his obituary in the New York Times (in its entirety) – here
and in The Guardian – here
from NPR – here
Here‘s Steve Karnowski for the Associated Press
Another great poet passes on to join the immortals.