AMERICAN POETRY: Wilderness and Domesticity by Robert Bly

AMERICAN POETRY: Wilderness and Domesticity

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Opinionated, bone-crunching essays on the state of American verse from poet, critic, and gadfly Bly. Bly began letting off steam from the wilds of Minnesota back in the 1950's with a journal entitled The Fifties, later extending into The Sixties and then The Seventies. Here, Bly gathers a selection of this output, intended in part to ""draw blood from the old King""--the conservative tradition of Pound and Eliot. As Bly admits, regretting earlier rudeness, not all pieces are fair to the poets under discussion. These include Robert Lowell, Louis Simpson, James Wright, James Dickey, Donald Hall, and Galway Kinnell. While Bly is capable of grudging admiration, there are some wild punches, with Robert Lowell taking a bashing for what is now considered one of his more memorable collections, For the Union Dead. What irked Bly about Lowell was Lowell's seeming association with academic modernism--which, in Bly's view, was a postwar growth industry that ultimately stunted American verse. Still, when Bly praises--and he does occasionally--it's from the gut, and has an air of credibility generally absent from the deft logrolling that passes for much contemporary poetry criticism. Ever the rugged individualist of letters, Bly gets extra points here for his swipes at what he considers a drain on national artistic health--the institutionalized creative-writing workshop.

Pub Date: Aug. 29th, 1990
Publisher: Harper & Row