The celebrated poet offers a personal reading of fairy tales.
Revisiting subjects previously explored in Iron John and The Maiden King, National Book Award winner Bly (Stealing Sugar from the Castle: Selected Poems, 1950-2013, 2013, etc.) wants to use his “intuition and write about stages of men’s growth as I see them in these tales.” For the author, these stories “are amazing trees of sound that grow inside the human memory and are fed by some longing for intimacy with others.” In them, the “psyche is trying to communicate what it knows, trying to slip something past the guards of the dictator ego.” Bly is influenced in his interpretive retellings by some “astonishing thinkers” (Kierkegaard, Yeats, etc.) and “those two old clowns, Freud and Jung.” The author first recounts each story in his own words and then informally discusses it (“let’s pause for some comments here….But back to the story again”) in the light of a variety of sources and poets. In addition to studying the works of others, Bly includes some of his own poems, a few previously unpublished. “One part of us is educated and one is not, particularly the feeling side, for men,” he writes. “I want to write poems for each side that both parts can understand.” The story of the “White Bear King Valemon,” for example, “offers us many glimpses into the divine world, which are difficult for those of us brought up in a culture that prefers not to talk seriously of spiritual excess.” Some readers may be bothered by Bly’s “intuitive,” philosophical ruminations on the stories, but he hopes that the “conscious mind may receive the fragrance of the old stories, tales told centuries ago by male and female geniuses.”
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.”