MPR: Poet Robert Bly looks forward and back

By Euan Kerr

Robert Bly has a reputation for fierceness at times, often railing against what he saw was wrong with the world. His book "Iron John" urged men to be more self aware and assert the positives of manhood. It attracted international attention, and a huge backlash.

"Well, that's interesting. I don't remember all that exactly, but I do remember people wanting to kill me," says Bly. "But that's not unusual."

Bly adds he is glad he raised the subject. Now his ferocity seems to be turned inwards. Robert Bly has never spared himself from introspection and rigorous self-criticism, and this appears in the new poems.

"It's hard to go through life without realizing how many of your old friends are gone, and how many disasters have taken place. So it's hard to live without a little bit of grief. Probably grief for your own idiocy would probably be part of that."

"Talking into the Ear of a Donkey" is far from glum, though. It's filled with poems that are refreshing, energizing, and even laugh-out-loud funny.

"Metaphor is the great fuel of poetry, and most poets are quite lucky if they get off one in a poem if any, these days," says poet Jim Lenfesty. "Robert gets off one a line!"

Lenfesty, a former editorial writer for the Star Tribune, writes and teaches poetry. He organized a conference last year which was the basis for a new book from the University of Minnesota Press, called "Robert Bly in This World."

More about Robert Bly in This World.

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