Last night the first heavy frost. Now the brave alfalfa has sobered. It has folded, as if from great heat, and turned away from the north. The horse’s winter coat has come through the bark of the trees. Our ears hear tinier sounds, reaching far away east in the early darkness.Not all his poetry aims for this kind of music, I think, because whenever he faces the Hobson’s choice of imagistic richness or perfected sounds, he yields to the force of the image. It’s an aesthetic decision that I honor, even though my own practice leans the other way. Whatever may be said about Bly’s work, it’s hard to argue with his exemplary independence, his commitment to raising the awareness of American readers about poets from other traditions, and his insistence that poets have a right and an obligation to address public issues. Has any other writer since the end of WWII accepted a prize like the National Book Award, then immediately and publicly turned the prize money over to a group opposed to any of our wars? Not that I can recall. In any case, for me Bly will always be the wild poet with the colorful poncho billowing like wings around him as he recited from memory ferocious poems like “The Busy Man Speaks” and sublime mystical poems like “Looking into a Face”. I feel lucky to have breathed the poetic atmosphere with him for the last several decades.
The Busy Man Speaks Not to the mother of solitude will I give myself Away, nor to the mother of love, nor to the mother of conversation. Nor to the mother of art, nor the mother Of tears, nor the mother of the ocean; Nor to the mother of sorrow, nor the mother Of the downcast face, nor the mother of the suffering of death; Not to the mother of the night full of crickets, Nor the mother of the open fields, nor the mother of Christ. But I will give myself to the father of righteousness, the father Of cheerfulness, who is also the father of rocks, Who is also the father of perfect gestures; From the Chase National Bank An arm of flame has come, and I am drawn To the desert, to the parched places, to the landscape of zeros; And I shall give myself away to the father of righteousness, The stones of cheerfulness, the steel of money, the father of rocks. Looking into a Face Conversation brings us so close! Opening The surfs of the body, Bringing fish up near the sun, And stiffening the backbones of the sea! I have wandered in a face, for hours, Passing through dark fires. I have risen to a body Not yet born, Existing like a light around the body, Through which the body moves like a sliding moon.