Visit Your Local PBS Station PBS Home PBS Home Programs A-Z TV Schedules Watch Video Donate Shop PBS Search PBS
Photo of Bill Moyers Bill Moyers Journal
Bill Moyers Journal
Bill Moyers Journal
Watch & Listen The Blog Archive Transcripts Buy DVDs

« Respecting the Dignity of Labor | Main | Attention Thirteen/WNET Viewers »

The Power of Poetry

In this week's JOURNAL, Robert Bly calls us to respect the work of the Muslim poets, saying that "if we're criticizing the Muslim world so much, we should be able to give thanks for the genius that is there”

He then introduces us to some of the works of Rumi (born in 1204 in present-day Afghanistan) and Hafez (born in 1320 in present day Iran). We've posted a couple for your consideration:

Rumi

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
there is a field. I’ll meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass,
the world is too full to talk about.
Ideas, language. Even the phrase each other
doesn’t make any sense.

-Translation by Coleman Barks

Hafez

The Five Days Remaining

The goods produced in the factories of space and time
Are not all that great. Bring some wine,
Because the desirables of this world are not all that great.

Heart and soul are born for ecstatic conversation
With the soul of souls. That’s it. If that fails,
Heart and soul are not in the end that great.

Don’t become indebted to the Tuba and Sidra trees
Just to have some shade in heaven. When you look closely,
My flowering cypress friend, you’ll see that these trees are not all
that great.

The true kingdom comes to you without any breaking
Of bones. If that weren’t so, achieving the Garden
Through your own labors wouldn’t be all that great.

In the five days remaining to you in this rest stop
Before you go to the grave, take it easy, give
Yourself time, because time is not all that great.

You who offer wine, we are waiting on the lip
Of the ocean of ruin. Take this moment as a gift; for the distance
Between the lip and the mouth is not all that great.

The state of my being – miserable and burnt
To a crisp – is proof enough that my need
To put it into words is not all that great.

You ascetic on the cold stone, you are not safe
From the tricks of God’s zeal: the distance between the cloister
And the Zorastrian tavern is not after all that great.

The name Hafez has been well inscribed in the books,
But in our clan of disreputables, the difference
Between profit and loss is not all that great.

-Translation by Robert Bly

Photo: Robin Holland


TrackBack

TrackBack URL for this entry:
http://www.pbs.org/moyers/mt4/mt-tb.cgi/472

Comments

I think that we should pull back are troops from the war in Afganistan.

T.S. Eliot wrote his Four Quartets during wartime in Britain, and received the Nobel Prize for them in 1948. I find Mr. Bly's interview to be echoing many of Eliot's poetic thoughts. Eliot used as one source Dame Julian of Norwich, one of whose thoughts I capsulize:

"There is no wrath in God...It is the most impossible thing that can be that God would be angry, for wrath and friendship are two opposites...I saw no wrath except on man's part, and that He forgives in us...I saw no kind of wrath in God, neither for a short time nor for a long."

The interview deserves a repeat, I think.

what do we fail to understand through our eyes, ears and touch of the world around us that poetry makes clear?

is it that poetry bypasses the head and goes straight to the heart?

I read the words of a native of this continent. He said that the people who have come from all places to take away their place can only do this unjust thing because they see and understand the world through their head and not their heart.

Where is the heart and what is the heart that it escapes us so.

I am touched by the cries of people next door and around the world but do so little to change even the smallest of my behaviors that do more to hurt than to help those who cry for life and ask the countries who create wealth and weapons to please leave them out of our insanity.

I need to want their peace more than I want my car, my television, my house, my cheap fast food, my cheap clothing and my hungry industry that provides my income.

What I want to fail to see is how comfortable I am in killing them more quickly than I kill myself with these choices.


Dear Mr. Moyers,

Hearing Robert Bly tug at your public mask with such unabashed personal affection was a great treat and a signature move on his part. I have spent many a wonderful hour enchanted by his voice; listening to recordings of his readings and memorizing more than a few stories and poems that moved me. For me to witness the dance of two courageous elders so dedicated to us, and to see their love for one another was a magnificent gift. I thank you.

I recently discovered The Essential Rumi and find the ancient mysticism fascinating. As a modern poet I write concerning the need to speak truth to power. In my book Truth For Truth Seekers I address the need to recognise leaders by their fruit. Preemptive War is demonic and those who support this surge in Demonic Da-mock-racy are as guilty as those who propose it. Bush is a Dragon in Sheep's clothing. I end one of my pieces in my book with the line, A Byrd in the Senate is of more value than two Bushes in The White House My latest piece titled One Dare Call It Treason is not in my book but I will send it to anyone wishing a copy that emails me. Bless Your Forever. A. T. Classic

I recently discovered The Essential Rumi and find the ancient mysticism fascinating. As a modern poet I write concerning the need to speak truth to power. In my book Truth For Truth Seekers I address the need to recognise leaders by their fruit. Preemptive War is Demonic and those who support this surge in Demonic Da-mock-racy are as guilty as those who propose it. Bush is a Dragon in Sheep's clothing. I end one of my pieces in my book with the line, A Byrd in the Senate is of more value than two Bushes in The White House. My latest piece titled One Dare Call It Treason is not in my book but I will send it to anyone wishing a copy that emails me. Bless Your Forever. A. T. Classic

Dear Mr. Moyers,

My husband and I sat mesmerized listening to you interview Robert Bly and Grace Lee Boggs. We can't thank you enough for introducing us to these two remarkable and I'm sure, very old souls. Thank you for a program of wisdom and love and common sense and poetry and compassion that ranks so far above the usual television fare. Thank you for coming back. We need you desperately. God bless you!!!

Just wanted to say thanks for all that you do. I wish I weren't so conflicted about giving $ to the shadow of its former self that is KQED.

The posting above my name is mine. How's posting is in my name.

I like to thank PBS for replacing my blog with one of their making, how can one beleive your version of what happen to last weeks broadcast,when, you change my blog.

"Also, to PBSs' credit" - as Hank said about his company, for releasing an 'uncensored' version of Bly's comments on Bush. They should get credit for actually releasing the uncensored version, but last Saturday and Sunday the links to the playback were also censored. Give credit when it is due.

Bly's work as a translator has been phenomenal: he has brought hundreds of poems from distant cultures alive for us. In the interview, he recites this stanza from a poem by Hafez, a 14th century Persian:

"You Puritans on the stone floor, you are not safe
From the tricks of God's zeal: the distance between the cloister
And the tavern we love is not all that great."

Bly modifies here, on the fly, the wording of this stanza as published in 2004 in his selected translations, "The Winged Energy of Delight":

"You ascetic on the cold stone, you are not safe
From the tricks of God's zeal: the distance between the cloister
and the Zoroastrian tavern is not all that great."

Only someone who reads Persian would know whether the published version is more "accurate." But the version that Bly declaimed for Moyers, with "You Puritans" and "the tavern we love," was perfectly tuned for his American audience.

Imagine what we might learn about Latin America if our newscasters quoted now and again from Bly's translations of Neruda and Vallejo, or from Thomas Merton's versions of Ernesto Cardenal, or from Paco Taibo's novels. I miss, from my time teaching English in Brasil, how literature turns up in the daily newspapers there as a normal part of educated discourse, as it never does here.

For those asking for a biblio of the works Robt. read from, nearly all can be found on his website:

http://www.robertbly.com/bookshelf.html

Also, to PBSs' credit, they have released the full content of the interview (including the "missing 8 seconds") both on the podcast: http://www-tc.pbs.org/moyers/rss/media/BMJ-1121.mp3

and the front page video on Moyers arena:

www.pbs.org/moyers

Watching it, it does make me a bit embarrassed for PBS. Hardly treasonous.

-j

EDITORIAL NOTE: The Robert Bly interview was not censored by PBS or Bill Moyers Journal. There was a transmission error which affected only WNET New York viewers on Friday evening. The complete streaming version and transcript have also been available since Friday night at 10pm EST at this link.

An Ode to Robert Bly

The giving of the poet strives against the greedy soul of profiteers.
Who will be the Champion of rightdoing and the nemesis of wrongdoing.
Sadness screams as the the reality of wrongdoing echoes across the known universe.
Christ weeps for the dead and dying.
Till love lifts its healing head; we are plagued by hate and deadly deeds. The Island of tranquility stands alone in a sea of chaos. we know it is there.
Getting to it is not that great. We "have each other", the poet pleads.
The greedy look the other way; counting their thirty pieces.

"What profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his soul?"

I guess that Clara Palmer Nistler doesn't mind if Bill Moyers censors his guests either? Do you think that it is okay for a poet's voice to be cut if he wants to say something about the president? Maybe you wouldn't mind if schools decided to burn books so the students couldn't read about poets like Walt Whitman or the history of the Vietnam 'Conflict?'

Mr. Moyers,

Each week, I've looked forward to all your Journals and you've never let me down.

This week, I met a poet I'd never heard of before. He's wonderful! I'm so glad I took my head out of the sand, long enough to be mesmerized by what he had to share.

Grace Lee Boggs? I'd met her before on one of your prior shows. As you asked your excellent questions, I was hypnotized by her depth of understanding and knowledge. She is beautiful in thought, word, and deed.

Keep up the good work, Bill. Never retire, your perspective is badly needed. If it were up to me, I'd name you president of the USA.

Respectfully,

Clara Palmer Nistler

Can you please provide the biblio list of the books that Robert Bly was reading from? Many thanks!

Awesome show, always enlightening, helps to remove some of the darkness and ignorace!

Robert Bly speaks of the weekly depression. Could one say that it is a sadness that is an ancient messenger and must be dealt with? A softer but still necessary weekly companion in life?

Shame on you PBS for cutting off Mr. Bly as you did!
Seems that history does repeat...

If PBS is so afraid of what one of their guests says about the government or Bush, can't they post a disclaimer stating they don't stand behind the truth and Free Speach of their guests?

I have been a member of the public broadcasting community for more than 30 years now (I'm only 40) and have always counted on PBS for honesty (with some objectivity, I thought) and strong support of our freedoms. We fought for our First Amendment rights and were taught by role models like Bly, Boggs and Moyers to STAND UP FOR THEM, but it's the responsibility of PBS and Moyers to exercise them.
I was ashamed of what I saw last night during the broadcast and from the statement that was posted here by the Bill Moyers Journal staff regarding "the technical problem during the broadcast." How dare they call their audience and supporters STUPID! Can't we see the hypocricy of the ENTIRE broadcast? This brings me to question ALL of Moyers and PBS's broadcasts in the past and wonder how much we really see and how much has been censored?

Bill Moyers has always stood high in my mind as a bright lighthouse for what's 'right' in journalism. Isn't he embarrassed by this? Won't he respond to this?

I want to know what Bly and Boggs think about this. I am sure that once they sign PBS's or The Journal's disclaimers they forfeit their rights to NOT be broadcast, but they can still speak out against this. We need to speak out against this.

If PBS so afraid of what one of their guests says about the government or Bush, can't they post a disclaimer stating they don't stand behind the truth and Free Speach of their guests?

I have been a member of the public broadcasting community for more than 30 years now (I'm only 40) and have always counted on PBS for honesty (with some objectivity, I thought) and strong support of our freedoms. We fought for our First Amendment rights and were taught by role models like Bly, Boggs and Moyers to STAND UP FOR THEM, but it's the responsibility of PBS and Moyers to exercise them.
I was ashamed of what I saw last night during the broadcast and from the statement that was posted here by the Bill Moyers Journal staff regarding "the technical problem during the broadcast." How dare they call their audience and supporters STUPID! Can't we see the hypocricy of the ENTIRE broadcast? This brings me to question ALL of Moyers and PBS's broadcasts in the past and wonder how much we really see and how much has been censored?

Bill Moyers has always stood high in my mind as a bright lighthouse for what's 'right' in journalism. Isn't he embarrassed by this? Won't he respond to this?

I want to know what Bly and Boggs think about this. I am sure that once they sign PBS's or The Journal's disclaimers they forfeit their rights to NOT be broadcast, but they can still speak out against this. We need to speak out against this.

Where's Whitman?

Where's Whitman?

Where's Whitman?

I went to the bookshelf to post a poem by Whitman. A slice, maybe a small piece to show that "I" had paid attention to the webcast [with Robert Bly and Bill Moyers.] No one had mentioned Whitman yet. And poet Bly said that Whitman had been neglected by all of us. Our National Heart. (The "greedy soul" had to get the upper hand on the other posts put here, you see?) And it had to be just right.

What poem? What book? Where's Walt Whitman?

There's Rumi, Hafiz, Chuang Tzu, Jack Kerouac, Shelly, even Schiller, but where is Walt Whitman?

Where did those two books go?

They were special. They smelled old when I bought them used and falling apart from Chatterton’s Books in L.A.. Years passed on the shelf, a child's toys neglected, collecting dust.

I made a sudden move from the West Coast to the East. Unpacked four full bookshelves worth of books, only a quarter of the collection saved!

Did Whitman get Dropped? Did Walt make the Cut? No, he's gone. Gone. No Walt Whitman.

And would I be doing what I'm doing today (by grace) if it weren't for singing his songs out loud for days on end: Walt Whitman, the Opener. The Galactic Body.

Where? Ku? Ma Ku? Coo. Coo, little Walt. Great SONG Walt Whitman, please come back. I love you.

Will you come back to this broken heart?

(Oh James! It’s never too late to sing again. And again! Walt Whitman. America.)


Thank you for the conversation with Mr. Bly. He reminds me again that we are a community of twenty-five hundred years. And to listen to our hearts. And to act with courage in this world. And that life is a careful and joyous thing, to be sung aloud everyday.
Thank you for your gifts, Mr. Bly.

Bly , as a preeminent poet of our time, has the license to call Bush a drunk without it being taken literally. He was referring to his intoxication with his greedy soul, his reckless inebriation with blind faith in his own "rightness". And if he doesn't wake up, he'll take us all off the edge of the roof with him.

Shame on PBS for not acknowledging the sophistication of its viewers.

First i watched my taped episode on Bly from last night to be horrified by the censorship. Then i posted a comment here about said horror. Then i went on line and figured i could watch an uncensored version there - i downloaded the episode to keep and went to minute 12 to hear what Bly had said about Bush that PBS censored. To my further disbelief, it was censored even online.

I disclose here that i am an Iranian-American, here now for 30 years. It was a great pleasure to see that Bly had gone to the tomb of Hafez and seen that Iranians take their poets to heart. He does a great job with translations; Hafez should feel like he is at your dinner party and he is the guy that everyone wants to hear talk. And Bly does well with Hafez, and Rumi for that matter.

Now back to my outrage! So Iranians today are living under a theocracy with daily censorship. That's modern Iran. So what makes us better here, what gives us the high ground, if we censor comments from one of our great poets?? It is not a matter of 'how much' censorship we have but whether we have censorship.

Living as a US citizen with 'freedom' is worth nothing if that 'freedom' is not real. So one begins to weigh the pros and cons of living in a 'free' society only to come out wondering what those freedoms are. And I come up short daily...

Thank you Bill Moyers, for persevering. Please don't 'retire' again!

all the best,
NDF, Short HIlls, NJ

Even PBS is not above self-censorship.
To cut Bly as he was about to describe Bush, the lesser, is beyond reproach. So this is what America has come to: Self-censorhip. AMAZING! PBS has no place claiming it is better than the rest......

Dear Bill, thank you for sharing Bly with us : He grows larger with time. It's a shame I had to be reminded of him, but here he is , as together with us as always. His sharing of Hafiz & Rumi is so wonderful. I too, fly!

Thank you, Bill Moyers, for being so like Grace Lee Boggs and Robert Bly in your enthsuasm and rigorous commitment to sharing the best of our humanity and the greedy aspect as well.

I'm a fan of Robert Bly, but had the pleasure of getting a taste of Grace Boggs for the first time. I've been all over the "Beloved Communities" website all morning.

A practicing Roman Catholic, I've also been nurtured by so many Eastern poets, including Rumi and Hafez.

Paula Sullivan,
Tulsa, OK

Bill,
Thank you for creating this special example of journalism disguised as art. Robert Bly, Grace Lee Boggs, and you have shown us, by your example, that work is indeed, love made visable.

Thank you, Bill Moyers, we are so fortunate to have you back.
Robert Bly and Grace Lee Boggs give us hope, how I admire them being so alive and vibrant, I have just booked some of Robert Bly's poems at the library as I need more time to savor and digest them.
Grace Lee Boggs is a hero,what stamina that lady has.
Thanks again Bille Moyers

Bill Moyers,

I most heartfelt thank you. You bring to the American consciousness beauty, vision, the sacred even in the profane (especially in the profane). Robert Bly and Grace Lee Boggs leave behind them the delicate, powerful, lingering scent of hope. They soar, and for a while at least we take their generous ride over the blue and white oceans of our planet and our lives. We will always, then, have the memory.

Dear Bill,
Thank you for introduciing me and your viewers to spiritual and enlightened humanbeings. I want to follow up on all these books and poems to help me get through these strange and confusing times.
I will not list the issues with these tmes because I want to remain as hopful and human as your enlightened guests left me for the moment.

I greatly respect and honor Bly, but - yes - it is difficult to catch his every word because of his famous intense slurring every so often. Would it be possible to make available a list of the books/poems included?
AND: RE Intro to Rumi on web page: it is widely accepted (altho not by all scholars)that Rumi was born
in 1207, and not 1204 as you stated. This year - 2007 has been declared The Year of Rumi by the United Nations to honor the 800th anniversary of his birth in September. Thankyou for engrossing Bly/Boggs program.

Robert Bly is not only a great Poet but more than this a Visionary Prophet and Sage.

To Robert Bly.
My congratulations to you for all your poetri that we can read.
Please, for the honor of this poet, stop reading his poetry in public, til you take an education of public speach.
See the speach of the wonderful lady following your part of the program

To Christian, 17:

As the great Doctor Hunter S. Thompson once said:

"Objective journalism is one of the main reasons American politics has been allowed to be so corrupt for so long. You can't be objective about Nixon."

I'd gladly extend that to include Bush. Objectivity in journalism is a sign that these people aren't just unintelligent robots. It shows they, like the rest of us, are capable of cognitive thought processes, decision-making, and situational analysis.

I would like to voice my great disappointment in the extreme left wing bias that your journal holds. I would like to see your journal show a more balanced position in it's reporting.


Thank you,


Christian


Age: 17

I started watching this show. After, seeing the show in which "The media" is afraid of the Buch's empire. Now, I find the media is you included. I will watch next week for your explanation. If none comes, than I'll find another one to watch.

8/31/07
Great show Bill,
and a good idea to put these interviews back to back. But Bill,..... Are you sure which one deserves the title of Poet??

I don't understand and I'm hoping someone can explain what's happening. Did the Bly interview only get censored in certain areas? How could people write in and not mention it!

Thank you Bill Moyers for your great program with Robert Bly and Grace Lee Boggs. I felt blessed by hearing from all three of you and immediately forwarded the Bly transcript to a poet friend of mine (former lawyer). Best wishes,
Brenda Berkman (former firefighter)

Thank you for speaking with Robert Bly again. He is an inspirational individual. I think it would be wonderful if you could also interview Professor Majid Naini, the renowned international Rumi scholar (he has studied Rumi in the original language for over 30 years of his life and recites most of his work by heart and offers instantaneous translations to English), who left his position as a dean of information technology to travel the world, spreading love via the beautiful words of Rumi. Without any outside funding or advertising, he has managed to travel over 300,000 miles and has been a keynote speaker at some of the most prestigious places in the U.S. (e.g. United Nations, Yale, Princeton, Penn, Johns Hopkins, UCLA, UCSB...) and abroad. In these turbulent times it is amazing to hear someone without any cultural bias (an Iranian with a Ph.D. in computer science from an ivy league university who has lived in the U.S. for 25 years) speak about universal love, peace, and harmony.

We found some lovely clips of Professor Majid Naini on YouTube. Please pass them on to send a message of universal peace to the world.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QFFlZ16Pl1w

PBS Special http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UvYeWgUxyjc

UCSB http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KLd8R-pPkzQ

To Bill Moyers,
PBS, Channel 13
New York Area

RE: Robert Bly


A poem from Me


Did I see what I think I did tonight?
on channel 13 ?
Did the station interrupt a simple Bushism coming from a most honorable man
(a great soul)
a Poet,
who we badly wanted to hear it from!

For God’s sake, why?

What makes this administration so powerful?
It’s “greedy soul”?

Or the trajectory (orbit)
of a Vulcan

who can’t fly?

I am shocked that you censored Robert Bly!? Absolutely shocked and disappointed.

I am shocked that you censored Robert Bly!? Absolutely shocked and disappointed.

thank you for the introduction to robert bly!

Thanks for speaking with Robert Bly again. He's a great American, poet, and teacher. Mr. Bly has helped me tremendously in my life, and we could use more like him.

In the depths of a depression, I once heard him say: "In depression, we refuse to go down, in our grief, we choose to go down." I've never forgotten that.

Please ask him if he received my solar eclipse photo a couple years back, and when he's coming to California again !

Thanks Bill Moyers,
Dean Drumheller, Half Moon Bay, CA

Post a comment

THE MOYERS BLOG is our forum for viewers' comments intended for discussing and debating ideas and issues raised on BILL MOYERS JOURNAL. THE MOYERS BLOG invites you to share your thoughts. We are committed to keeping an open discussion; in order to preserve a civil, respectful dialogue, our editors reserve the right to remove or alter any comments that we find unacceptable, for any reason. For more information, please click here.

THE MOYERS BLOG
A Companion Blog to Bill Moyers Journal

Your Comments

Podcasts

THE JOURNAL offers a free podcast and vodcast of all weekly episodes. (help)

Click to subscribe in iTunes

Subscribe with another reader

Get the vodcast (help)

For Educators    About the Series    Bill Moyers on PBS   

© Public Affairs Television 2008    Privacy Policy    DVD/VHS    Terms of Use    FAQ