Biography of Robert Bly
Robert Bly (born December 23, 1926) is an American poet, author, activist and leader of the mythopoetic men's movement, most famous for his Iron John: A Book About Men (1990), which spent 62 weeks on the The New York Times Best Seller list. For The Light Around the Body he won the 1968 National Book Award for Poetry.
Bly was born in Lac qui Parle County, Minnesota, to Jacob and Alice Bly, who were of Norwegian ancestry. Following graduation from high school in 1944, he enlisted in the United States Navy, serving two years. After one year at St. Olaf College in Minnesota, he transferred to Harvard University, joining the later famous group of writers who were undergraduates at that time, including Donald Hall, Adrienne Rich, Kenneth Koch, Frank O'Hara, John Ashbery, Harold Brodkey, George Plimpton and John Hawkes. He graduated in 1950 and spent the next few years in New York.
Beginning in 1954, Bly spent two years at the University of Iowa at the Iowa Writers Workshop, completing a Masters degree in Fine Arts, along with W. D. Snodgrass, Donald Justice, and others. In 1956, he received a Fulbright Grant to travel to Norway and translate Norwegian poetry into English. While there, he found not only his relatives, but became acquainted with the work of a number of major poets whose work was barely known in the United States, among them Pablo Neruda, Cesar Vallejo, Antonio Machado, Gunnar Ekelof, Georg Trakl, Rumi, Hafez, Kabir, Mirabai, and Harry Martinson. Bly determined then to start a literary magazine for poetry translation in the United States. The Fifties, The Sixties, and The Seventies, introduced many of these poets to the writers of his generation. He also published essays on American poets.
During this time, Bly lived on a farm in Minnesota, with his wife and children. His first marriage was to award-winning short story novelist Carol Bly. They had four children, including Mary Bly —a best-selling novelist and Literature Professor at Fordham University as of 2011— and divorced in 1979. Bly has been married to the former Ruth Ray since 1980; by that marriage he had a stepdaughter and stepson, although the stepson died in a pedestrian–train incident.
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Robert Bly Poems
Gratitude To Old Teachers
When we stride or stroll across the frozen lake, We place our feet where they have never been. We walk upon the unwalked. But we are uneasy.
A Month Of Happiness
A blind horse stands among cherry trees. And bones shine from cool earth. The heart leaps Almost up to the sky! But laments
The Cat In The Kitchen
Have you heard about the boy who walked by The black water? I won't say much more. Let's wait a few years. It wanted to be entered. Sometimes a man walks by a pond, and a hand
Waking from Sleep
Inside the veins there are navies setting forth Tiny explosions at the water lines And seagulls weaving in the wind of the salty blood.
For My Son Noah, Ten Years Old
Night and day arrive and day after day goes by, and what is old remains old, and what is young remains young and grows old,
Driving toward the Lac Qui Parle River
I I am driving; it is dusk; Minnesota. The stubble field catches the last growth of sun. The soybeans are breathing on all sides.
DRIVING WEST IN 1970
My dear children, do you remember the morning When we climbed into the old Plymouth And drove west straight toward the Pacific?
Driving through Minnesota During the Han...
We drive between lakes just turning green; Late June. The white turkeys have been moved A second time to new grass.
Ravens Hiding in a Shoe
There is something men and women living in houses Don't understand. The old alchemists standing Near their stoves hinted at it a thousand times.
Prayer for My Father
Your head is still restless, rolling east and west. That body in you
Living at the End of Time
There is so much sweetness in children's voices, And so much discontent at the end of day, And so much satisfaction when a train goes by.
For the Old Gnostics
The Fathers put their trust in the end of the world And they were wrong. The Gnostics were right and not Right. Dragons copulate with their knobby tails. Some somnolent wealth rises unconcerned,
The Fat Old Couple Whirling Around
The drum says that the night we die will be a long night. It says the children have time to play. Tell the grownups They can pull the curtains around the bed tonight.
The Executive's Death
Merchants have multiplied more than the stars of heaven. Half the population are like the long grasshoppers That sleep in the bushes in the cool of the day;
The Great Society
Dentists continue to water their lawns even in the rain:
Hands developed with terrible labor by apes
Hang from the sleeves of evangelists;
There are murdered kings in the light-bulbs outside movie theaters:
The coffins of the poor are hibernating in piles of new tires.
The janitor sits troubled by the boiler,
And the hotel keeper shuffles the cards of insanity.
The President dreams of invading Cuba.