Books by Robert Bly

MORE THAN TRUE by Robert Bly
Released: March 27, 2018

"Idiosyncratic readings by a generous, gifted writer who asks his readers to be open to a story's poetry, its 'light by which we may see life.'"
The celebrated poet offers a personal reading of fairy tales. Read full book review >
Released: April 2, 2013

"The love of language, poetry, family and friends, all on display in eloquent handwritten or typed letters redolent of a bygone era."
Nearly 50 years of trans-Atlantic correspondence between two titans of contemporary poetry. Read full book review >
Released: Oct. 1, 1998

A drum-beater for masculinity and an icon of feminist psychoanalysis here deconstruct a Russian fairy tale, reducing an enchanting story to psycho-mush. Bly, the poet, anthologist, and translator, is also (of course) the author of best-selling Iron John, the book that helped send men back to the woods in search of metaphorical manliness. Woodman is a Jungian analyst whose Leaving My Father's House serves as a reference for would-be architects of feminine consciousness. Apparently, these two have developed a dog-and-pony show centered on the story of the Maiden King (or Maiden Tsar, as they call it). This unusually complex fairy tale features Ivan, son of a merchant, and his lengthy journeys, challenging tasks, and encounters with many aspects of the female, including a stepmother, three witchlike "Baba Yagas," a more amenable —Crone,— plus, of course, the beautiful and powerful Maiden Tsar—and her 30 "foster sisters." The authors set out to probe the metaphorical and mythological meaning of the story, first in individual commentaries, then in dialogue. Bly goes first, taking the story section by section and relating each section to other mythologies—Native American, Hindu—as well as to current cultural, psychological, and spiritual themes, frequently via poetry. In her section, Woodman dives deeper, calling up archetypes, the divisions of the psyche, and the necessity of making them whole again. Particularly interesting is a reflection on the grief caused by the death of Princess Diana (was she a Maiden Tsar?), interpreted as a "yearning for the feminine." Both authors celebrate what they seem to agree is a trend favoring the rebalancing of male and female "energies"; they deplore a numbing of the connection between conscious and subconscious, since that connection permits spiritual fulfillment. Only groupies will think this is anything but intellectual and psychic quicksand. (Author tour) Read full book review >
Released: May 1, 1996

Following Iron John's (1990) mythopoetic men's-movement guide, Bly's new jeremiad turns to broader issues of children and parents, excoriating the modern world as an adolescent culture lacking parental supervision. Bly's ``sibling society,'' formed by ``junk culture . . . early and shallow sexuality, destruction of courtesy . . . economic uncertainty,'' sacrifices mythic symbols for literal information, with children the first victims of this denatured environment. ``Adults,'' Bly writes, ``regress toward adolescence; and adolescents—seeing that—have no desire to become adults.'' This tattered society is, he suggests, the puerile heir to the overthrown, emotionally bankrupt patriarchy. Bly, playing at punditry, predicts a catastrophic downward shift in values unless we identify the proper way to rear children and unless we ``half- adults'' become truly mature. He salts his call to action with citations from New York Times articles and sundry statistics on education, crime, and the economy. In fact, The Sibling Society often sounds more like Bob Dole, Anna Quindlen, or even Ross Perot than Iron John. As in that earlier work Bly turns to myths and poetry both to illustrate our predicament (an elaborate reading of Jack and the Beanstalk focusing on the Giant's ungoverned appetite) and to suggest an alternative model for father-son relations (the Hindu myth of Ganesha's creation). Bly also liberally borrows from feminists, such as Jean Baker Miller and Mary Pipher, to fashion his vision of a healthy environment for maturation and intimacy, for fathers and mothers, daughters and sons alike. There are stops along the way to settle scores with radical feminists and the cowboy cult of inarticulately stoic masculinity, among others. Bly, having identified what children need—``Stability . . . advice, good psychic food, unpolluted stories,'' as well as clear rites of passage and access to the great outdoors—offers some specifics on how we should go about providing these necessities. Urgent, impassioned, with (potentially) wide appeal, but Bly's myth-patterns jar with his newly adopted news-magazine style of statistics and commentary. Read full book review >