I am deeply sad to learn of the death of Robert Bly. He was the last of those late 20th century poets whose poems I loved in my college days. There were Bly, Stafford, Roethke, Kinnell, Wright, Jeffers, Strand and others. All gone now. T.S. Elliot and Ezra Pound were already long gone, even then. And Robert Frost died when I was two years old. I have loved these people, tangentially; the way you love a cool pond on a hot summer day and driving past it, wish you had time to stop and swim.
I have little experience of snowbanks. It hasn’t snowed here since 1937 and I’ve heard I didn’t really stick. Far too little of anything has stuck to me. I’m a cozy warm in the house with a cup of coffee kind of guy. Far too often, I’m more adrift in Netflix than in the snowy fields of literature. Quel dommage!
“Those great sweeps of snow that stop suddenly six
feet from the house …
Thoughts that go so far.”
You can find the influence of Bly’s poems all throughout my own. Like this:
“And the sea lifts and falls all night, the moon goes on
through the unattached heavens alone.”
Just last month I was thinking about Robert Bly very particularly and googled to see that he was still with us. That day, I wrote a poem that borrows from him, using the title of one of his books, “The Man in the Black Coat Turns.” My poem (below) is called “The Man in a Black Coat.” That’s not just influence, it’s outright allusion; you can see how much I appreciated his poetry. And here’s il miglio fabbro – the better craftsman:
About 30 years ago a friend of mine was about to go to one of Bly’s retreat/workshops for men. I gave him a few of my poems and a copy of one of Bly’s books and asked him to take them along. He read the poems to Robert Bly and others, said Bly was complimentary, and returned with the book signed for me. Bly had drawn a figure which he said was meant to be “the shadow chasing Kyle.”
So much gratitude from my shadow and me.