Featuring: Robert Bly
Intriguing Imaginer, Poet, Beloved Bard
I own a copy of “Iron John: A Book About Men” by Robert Bly. Beyond this book, I was oblivious to his significance in the world of poetry and prose. When I learned of his passing at age 94, several storytellers gave odes or at least well-wishes during that time. Most people shared one of his thousands of poems. While some people have labeled Robert Bly as “controversial,” I found his ideas fascinating and a breath of fresh air in defending men and promoting the idea of grief and melancholy to be accepted and celebrated with men today. As a woman, I see this as beautiful. Sometimes I feel that men are often targeted in today’s society. Acknowledging the feelings of men does not, in any way, diminish the feelings of women.
Thus, an exploration of Robert Bly’s life gave me much to ponder. In more than one interview, Robert Bly admitted to not feeling safe with his alcoholic father. Yet, he felt inspired to write poetry when he “felt safe.” So, he did much better on a creative level when he was away from his father. Yet, he yearned for greater bonds to be between father and son. Delving into the traditional Grimm tale of “Iron John” – with a man that becomes a father-figure – has another way of touching my heart for Bly’s work.
Of his 40+ published works, his most famous did happen to be “Iron John: A Book About Men.” It was on the New York Best Seller’s List for 62 weeks. At the time I bought it, I only knew it sounded interesting and was part of the optional reading list with the Storytelling Masters program linked with East Tennessee State University.
While watching videos of Robert Bly, he sometimes referenced William Stafford or “Bill” Stafford as Robert would put it. Bill said many lovely words about Bly’s work including the idea of being a spiritual experience and being part of a daily intake much like vitamins. Bill encouraged the writing of morning poems, that Robert Bly then took on as a challenge. Part of morning poetry was always writing them by hand while still lying down, when you barely have awoken. Robert joked that a computer or typewriter would be too heavy on the chest while lying down! Later on, Robert published a collection of these pieces called, appropriately, “Morning Poems.”
I find a beauty in this daily challenge. I may want to try it for myself. Have you done any such challenge? While focusing on poetry, these could be story snippets in the morning.
Robert Bly was inspired in poetry as well as in music. He was often called a bard. He played many instruments and sometimes performed with others or taught several workshops that combined storytelling, poetry, and music.
I’ve learned that I must study more about Robert Bly. At least reviewing someone’s life allows me a chance to honor someone – that giving of time. Learn more at Robert Bly’s website.
A video that I found featuring Robert Bly gives a hint to what he was like:
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I appreciate Robert Bly for his inspiring words to re-think how we feel about masculinity and all that entails. The mythopoetic has a spiritual side to it as well. His poetry, stories, and music will continue to impact generations to come.
Robert still has a story. You have a story. We all have stories.