by Robert--Ed. Bly ‧ RELEASE DATE: April 30, 1980
What fun! or, What a bore. No matter how you feel about Robert Bly, this big, idiosyncratic collection probably will both delight and annoy. Though assembled for the Sierra Club, these 150 poems are not ecology or ""nature"" poems except in the broadest sense; the ""twofold consciousness,"" as Bly ponderously defines it, is ""the ancient union of the day intelligence of the human being and the night intelligence of nature."" The poems are grouped in six thematic sections, each introduced with a dogmatic essay by Bly. In the first two sections, he sets forth his version of recent Western thought, from the ""Old Position"" of the 16th and 17th centuries which divorced man from nature (represented by Pope, Swift, Milton) through ""the Attack on the Old Position""--i.e., the Romanticism of Blake, Goethe, Novalis, Wordsworth, Whitman, and so on. Here are some fine, often neglected poems--such as John Clare's ""The Badger""--and some obscure favorites of Bly's, like Novalis' ""Aphorisms."" Parts three and four provide examples of the twofold consciousness of the 20th century, when, Bly postulates, the complete union of the rational (human) and the irrational (nature) are again possible. Here are Frost, Jeffers, Crane, Stevens, Rilke--and Rexroth, Snyder, Levertov, Neruda, and many others. Bly's taste overall is much more catholic than his moralizing, self-righteous essays imply. Thus, part five presents examples of the ""object poem"": Marianne Moore's ""Rigorists,"" Elizabeth Bishop's ""The Fish,"" Charles Simic's ""Stone."" And the last section contains mostly non-Western poetry: the Indian mystic Kabir, the Sufi poet Rumi, the Chinese Tao Yuan-Ming. Since most of the translations throughout are Bly's, it must be said that Neruda, Rilke, and Kabir all end up sounding a good deal like Robert Bly. Together, the essays and the selections comprise a cultural manifesto reminiscent of William Carlos Williams' essays--arrogance balanced by love and enthusiasm. The Sierra Club got more than it bargained for--and so, for better and for worse, will readers.
Pub Date: April 30, 1980
Page Count: -
Publisher: Sierra Club--dist. by Scribners
Review Posted Online: N/A
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1980
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