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ROBERT BLY
Robert Bly by Robin Holland
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August 31, 2007

"[Poetry] merely speaks to the soul, so the soul can remember. So it's quite proper to have all the poems against the war. And it's proper not to be disappointed if nothing changes."

--Robert Bly

Born in western Minnesota in 1926, Robert Bly enlisted in the Navy when he was 18, where he spent two years, before attending Harvard and later the University of Iowa's Writer's Workshop.

In 1966 he co-founded American Writers Against the Vietnam War and helped lead the opposition among writers to this war. Almost 40 years later, he wrote one of the first poems against the Iraq war in August 2002 before the invasion.

"It's quite proper to have...poems against war. And it's proper not to be disappointed if nothing changes," Bly explains to Bill Moyers.

Bly has touched upon a wide range of topics in his more than 30 books, poetry volumes and translations, examining the power of myth, Indian poetry, meditation, and storytelling. His IRON JOHN: A BOOK ABOUT MEN, became an international bestseller, helping to bring more men into the world of poetry. Read an excerpt here. In 1990, Bly and Bill Moyers collaborated on the series, A GATHERING OF MEN, exploring the changing role of men in modern America. Watch the first 10 minutes of this program here.

Recent books of poetry and prose include MY SENTENCE WAS A THOUSAND YEARS OF JOY, EATING THE HONEY OF WORDS, THE SIBLING SOCIETY, and KABIR: ECSTATIC POEMS.

Robert Bly talked with Bill Moyers about his recent focus on Islamic poets, including Rumi, Hafez and Kabir. Bly states: "Rumi and Hafez have been the guiding light, Rumi especially, of American poetry for the last five or ten years. But also it seems to me that if we're ...criticizing the Muslim world so much, we should be able to give thanks for the genius that is there...So, this is Persian poetry-14th century. "The foods turned out by the factors of time and space are not all that great. Bring some wine because good things of this world are not all that great."

> Find out more about Persian Poetry

Related Media:
Watch an excerpt from A GATHERING OF MEN (1990)
In this series, Bill Moyers and Robert Bly explore the changing role of men in modern America.

Watch poet Coleman Barks read a poem by Rumi, NOW WITH BILL MOYERS
References and Reading:
More on Robert Bly

Robert Bly's Web site
"At this web site, readers will find information on every facet of Robert Bly's literary career, including bibliographies, reviews, and interviews, as well as new essays, poems, and translations, to increase their understanding and enjoyment of Bly's work."

Read Bly's Acceptance Speech of National Book Award, 1969
"I am uneasy at a ceremony emphasizing our current high state of culture. Cultural prizes, traditionally, put writers to sleep, and even the public. But we don't want to be asleep any more."

On Poetry and Sorrows: a Short Conversation with Robert Bly
By Brad Buchholz, AUSTIN AMERICAN STATESMAN, August 06, 2007
"Poet headed to Austin talks about Iraq war and the stupidity of watching TV 6-8 hours a day."

Leaping Into the Unknown: The Poetics of Robert Bly's Deep Image, by Kevin Bushell
"In an essay published in 1961, Robert Kelly coined the term "deep image" in reference to a new movement in American poetry. Ironically, the term grew in popularity despite the critical disapproval of it by the group's leading theorist and spokesperson, Robert Bly. Speaking with Ekbert Faas in 1974, Bly explains that the term deep image "suggests a geographical location in the psyche," rather than, as Bly prefers, a notion of the poetic image which involves psychic energy and movement."

More on Walt Whitman

Walt Whitman Archive
"The Walt Whitman Archive is an electronic research and teaching tool that sets out to make Whitman's vast work, for the first time, easily and conveniently accessible to scholars, students, and general readers."

Walt Whitman on Poets.org
Biography and links to Whitman's writings.

PBS: I Hear America Singing
Whitman is featured in this PBS documentary about the singing tradition in America.

More on Rainer Maria Rilke

Stephen Mitchell on Rainer Maria Rilke
Writer Stephen Mitchell has translated many of Rilke's writings. You can read his commentaries on LETTERS TO A YOUNG POET and his translations of some of Rilke's verse online.

Poets.org: Rainer Maria Rilke
Biography and links to Rilke's writings.

The LeftBank.org: Rainer Maria Rilke
An extensive collection of Rilke's writings.

LETTERS TO A YOUNG POET
The complete text of the book: "You ask whether your verses are any good. You ask me. You have asked others before this. You send them to magazines. You compare them with other poems, and you are upset when certain editors reject your work. Now (since you have said you want my advice) I beg you to stop doing that sort of thing. You are looking outside, and that is what you should most avoid right now. No one can advise or help you - no one. There is only one thing you should do. Go into yourself. Find out the reason that commands you to write; see whether it has spread its roots into the very depths of your heart; confess to yourself whether you would have to die if you were forbidden to write."

More on Rumi, Hafez and Kabir and Persian Poetry


The Rumi Network
"Rumi.net is based on the work of award-winning Rumi translator, author and performer Shahram Shiva. Shiva has been translating the poetry of Rumi since 1988 and has been presenting Rumi concerts and workshops in the US ever since."

Read and Listen to poems by Rumi

Read poems by Persian poet Hafez

The Poetry of Indian poet Kabir

Islamic Foundation: Classic Islamic Poems
"There has long been a great tradition of spiritual poetry in the world of Islam. From the time of the Blessed Prophet Muhammad, when his companions used to recite poetry with his approval, until our present day, Muslims have sought to discover the truth of the maxim, 'In some poetry there is wisdom.'"

Texas Nafas
Nafas, in Middle-Eastern languages, is the word for "breath" and a metaphor for spirit or life. Texas Nafas airs on Public Access Community Television (PACT, Time Warner Cable channel 16, every Saturday at 10:00 PM to 10:30 PM in Austin, Texas). In August 2007, Robert Bly and Coleman Barks read poems in a special program sponsored by Nafas.

Guest photo by Robin Holland.

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>Exploring Persian poetry

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