Monday, October 22, 2018

Light? Not So Much


Robert Bly is perhaps best known as the author of Iron John: A Book About Men, an important and still timely book about modern masculinity. These poems have a robust voice -- distinctively masculine, if there is such a thing -- as they deal in dark images invoking death, disasters both national and personal, and the Viet Nam War. I read them with trepidation, still feeling tender and skittish from my recent post-apocalyptic reading.

Bly deftly combines disparate words and images, creating meanings that bounce off each other like ripples confined in a narrow pool, leaving the reader to make sense of the overlaps. His subjects are often political and always distinctly American, flavored with despair and resistance. They reflected a segment of the national mood when they were written, and they have aged well.

Excerpt:

At a March against the Vietnam War

Washington, November 27, 1965

Newspapers rise high in the air over Maryland

We walk about, bundled in coats
     and sweaters in the late November sun

Looking down, I see feet moving
Calmly, gaily,
Almost as if separated from their bodies

But there is something moving in the dark somewhere
Just beyond
The edge of our eyes: a boat
Covered with machine guns
Moving along under trees

It is black,
The hand reaches out
And cannot touch it--
It is that darkness among pine boughs
That the Puritans brushed
As they went out to kill turkeys

At the edge of the jungle clearing
It explodes
On the ground
 
We long to abase ourselves

We have carried around this cup of darkness
We have longed to pour it over our heads

We make war
Like a man anointing himself

Note: This book completes my reading for the Color Coded Reading Challenge (light). Hooray! But I still have a few reviews to write before I'm officially finished.  

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