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In his roles as gadfly, editor, translator, and ex-officio secretary of American poetry, as well as in his own poems, Robert Bly has been a major presence and force in the literary world over the past four decades.


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In his roles as gadfly, editor, translator, and ex-officio secretary of American poetry, as well as in his own poems, Robert Bly has been a major presence and force in the literary world over the past four decades.

30 review for American Poetry: Wildness and Domesticity

  1. 4 out of 5

    Robert

    I first read Robert Bly's American Poetry twenty-five years ago. I was living in Mexico and I recall one moment when I was wrapped up in Bly's near-polemical arguments and a bolt of lighting hit the wing of the small plane I was in as we descended into Mexico City's brown pollution. The lightning bolt sounded like the crack of a very large, heavy baseball bat hitting a fairly large metal ball. The plane kept flying and I kept reading. When this book came out in 1991, it must have made a similar s I first read Robert Bly's American Poetry twenty-five years ago. I was living in Mexico and I recall one moment when I was wrapped up in Bly's near-polemical arguments and a bolt of lighting hit the wing of the small plane I was in as we descended into Mexico City's brown pollution. The lightning bolt sounded like the crack of a very large, heavy baseball bat hitting a fairly large metal ball. The plane kept flying and I kept reading. When this book came out in 1991, it must have made a similar sound hitting the skulls of most American poets, but as far as I know, they have kept writing the kind of poetry Bly objected to and continued to attend the MFA workshops that he truly despised. In Bly's well-documented view, many of the most successful American poets had succumbed to confession and technique as opposed to reaching into their unconscious for contact with the darkness that they then could return to the world and their readers. They eschewed discussing politics, tended to admire themselves a great deal, and focused too much on "things" as if "things" told us anything about the human condition. Bly also took the position that truly critical criticism was part of the poet's responsibility as opposed to mutual back-patting and blurbing. I would suppose the poetry world in America more or less loathed Bly for all this. He eviscerated James Dickey for his bloated self-regarding rhetorical exploits in writing poetry about his love affair with personal power. He knocked Karl Shapiro over for telling us what it is like to ride in a New York city bus and just not know what all the things--and people--really mean...probably nothing, I suppose. He took the critic/professor Harold Bloom to task for writing only about poets he admired and praising too highly the airy mysteries of Ammons and Ashberry. He suggested that critics in previous decades like Edmund Wilson and R.P. Blackmur did much harder, more important work both on what they liked and disliked--and telling us why. Poets Bly admired like James Wright got adulterated praise. He quoted one poem to make a point, not, as he said, to assert that it was great. Other poets he liked, Lorca, for example, also merited Bly's admiration for their sudden, swift descents into themselves and out again. As a diplomat, I hosted a luncheon for Bly a few years after I read American Poetry. I was in Germany at the time. Bly was cranky. Luncheons like that are no place for serious discussion, so what was anyone getting out of it? I could see that question in his eyes, and it's a fair question, so I didn't hold it against him, and I knew, from reading American Poetry, that he was fully aware that he made a practice of biting the hand that fed him. In other words, he wasn't innocent of accepting reading fees or grants or varieties of institutional support that helped him along as a poet and critic, even if such support, in his view, contributes nothing to literary accomplishment or culture. Not long ago I picked up a collection of Bly's poems and found them too self-involved on the one hand and too programmatic on the other, pitching a theory of human experience I didn't need repeated on page after page. But this book is truly wild, not at all domestic, and I loved the risks he took then even if he's a little old for them now.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Maggie

    Bly cracks me up in the same way Melville cracks me up, that sharp, precise humor coming through in unexpected moments. Reading these essays I was floored by how prescient his criticisms on the role of the writer in society and the ‘sameness’ coming out of a bloated proliferation of American writing programs were. I’d look at the dates they were written and shake my head. Have we really progressed so little in the last 50 years?

  3. 5 out of 5

    Robert Walkley

    Bly is a great and important American poet. His essays can be interesting and novel. I found this book somewhat formulaic. However, if you’re new to Bly’s ideas about poetry, this is a good place as any to start.

  4. 4 out of 5

    John Fredrickson

    This is a collection of essays on various individual poets as well as on trends within contemporary poetry. With a couple of exceptions, I found the essays to be confusing, or at least unconvincing.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Nathan Satterlee

    This collection of Robert Bly's essays is a guidebook to drawing from your inner resources as a writer. The emphasis is on making the leap from conscious material to latent intelligence (instinctive / unconscious / shadowed) and back, even within the space of a single poem. It encouraged me to explore deep content, angers, and confrontations in my life and in my work. Bly gives close analysis of several poems, criticizing those individuals and artistic movements with undeveloped or one-sided voi This collection of Robert Bly's essays is a guidebook to drawing from your inner resources as a writer. The emphasis is on making the leap from conscious material to latent intelligence (instinctive / unconscious / shadowed) and back, even within the space of a single poem. It encouraged me to explore deep content, angers, and confrontations in my life and in my work. Bly gives close analysis of several poems, criticizing those individuals and artistic movements with undeveloped or one-sided voices. I found myself jumping back and forth between the sections, from general theory to specific poets.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Ashley

    I usually enjoy Robert Bly's articles and essays, and this book is no exception. His prose is clear, uninhibited, well thought out, and his claims are always backed with examples and citations. Works in several parts, covering many of his essays on the state of American poetry in the 20th century compared to other nations and America's own past poetics over the course of about 30 years. Also great for the reader that isn't too interested in these musings, but is interested in the particular poet I usually enjoy Robert Bly's articles and essays, and this book is no exception. His prose is clear, uninhibited, well thought out, and his claims are always backed with examples and citations. Works in several parts, covering many of his essays on the state of American poetry in the 20th century compared to other nations and America's own past poetics over the course of about 30 years. Also great for the reader that isn't too interested in these musings, but is interested in the particular poetry of Denise Levertov, W. S. Merwin, Donald Hall and others: most notably his thoughts and sketch of his friend James Wright's poetry, all filled with great excerpts.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Ed Patterson

    Yes, show me the "wilderness!" Robert highlighted many poets to his exclaim and disgust. But, besides his critical judgments, he allows you to touch the words and lines with majesty. Poetry is discovered between his (God-like)finger (pointing to he images), and the poetic image itself. Like a "wild animal"(and some are), sensual imagery pops with vivid feeling and rapture. He shows how to dig deep and listen to that natural voice inside; and then, creep out of our shell and discover the beauties Yes, show me the "wilderness!" Robert highlighted many poets to his exclaim and disgust. But, besides his critical judgments, he allows you to touch the words and lines with majesty. Poetry is discovered between his (God-like)finger (pointing to he images), and the poetic image itself. Like a "wild animal"(and some are), sensual imagery pops with vivid feeling and rapture. He shows how to dig deep and listen to that natural voice inside; and then, creep out of our shell and discover the beauties of our world with words and living colors, like an celestial night. Yes, show me the "wilderness."

  8. 5 out of 5

    Peter John

    It's unfortunate that this book came out at roughly the same time as "Iron John", as I'm sure that this work was closer to Robert Bly's heart -- I mean here is a lifetime of learning and conclusions from experience condensed into a few hours reading. Very mind opening. If you doubt the relevance ofpoetry in the digital age, this book is a must read.Robert Bly It's unfortunate that this book came out at roughly the same time as "Iron John", as I'm sure that this work was closer to Robert Bly's heart -- I mean here is a lifetime of learning and conclusions from experience condensed into a few hours reading. Very mind opening. If you doubt the relevance ofpoetry in the digital age, this book is a must read.Robert Bly

  9. 4 out of 5

    James

    Occasionally pushy, sometimes bitter, usually enjoyable, always instructive--although it helps if you are familiar with his poems. And modernism, if you care to understand that which he grinds his axe against.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Martin Keith

  11. 5 out of 5

    Tim Hawkins

  12. 4 out of 5

    Kyle V

  13. 5 out of 5

    Jeremy Shane

  14. 5 out of 5

    Jeffrey

  15. 5 out of 5

    Mike Koehler

  16. 5 out of 5

    Rick

  17. 5 out of 5

    Jerry

  18. 4 out of 5

    Mills College Library

    811.509 B661a 1990

  19. 5 out of 5

    Daniel

  20. 4 out of 5

    Andrew Jenkins

  21. 4 out of 5

    Johann Kisaame

  22. 5 out of 5

    Zain Raza

  23. 5 out of 5

    Afta Gley

  24. 5 out of 5

    Peter Danbury

  25. 5 out of 5

    Chris

  26. 5 out of 5

    Tylor Lovins

  27. 4 out of 5

    David

  28. 5 out of 5

    Alex

  29. 5 out of 5

    Yael

  30. 5 out of 5

    Stephen

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