Biography (Magill's Survey of American Literature, Revised Edition)
Robert Elwood Bly was born in Madison, Minnesota, on December 23, 1926, to Jacob Thomas Bly and Alice Aws Bly, second-generation Norwegian immigrants. He grew up on his family’s farm and, after completing high school in Madison, enlisted in the Navy, serving in a special radar program until the end of the war. According to Bly, one of the few positive memories he had of his experience in the Navy was the purchase of his first books of poetry, especially Carl Sandburg’s Chicago Poems: Poems of the Midwest (1946) and Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass (1855-1892).
After the war, using the G.I. Bill, Bly attended St. Olaf’s College in Northfleld, Minnesota, and studied writing under Arthur Paulson. Wanting to pursue his studies in a more concerted way, Bly transferred from St. Olaf’s after only one year and entered Harvard University in 1947, where he majored in English. His education consisted of traditional English literature, augmented by courses in Latin, Greek, and German; however, he also read the works of respected contemporary poets, such as Robert Lowell (especially Lord Weary’s Castle, published in 1946) and Richard Wilbur. Bly’s interest in modern poetry led to an appointment during his junior year as literary editor of The Harvard Advocate, where he met other young writers and poets, among them Donald...
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Biography (Magill's Survey of American Literature, Revised Edition)
Perhaps more than practically any other poet of his generation, Bly has sought to enact what he believes is the proper role for the poet in society: a consciousness-raising, outspoken advocate for change and a moral conscience for a society often too willing to be morally and spiritually complacent. Bly believes that as a culture, the Western world, particularly the United States, tends to shirk its responsibilities to humanity and to its own future generations. New Criticism and the poetry it championed encouraged this lack of responsibility through its emphasis on exegesis of the text without reference to author or context. Bly’s criticism offers an effective counterstatement, to borrow a term from Edmund Burke, to formalistic theory, and his poetry offers a highly convincing, alternative voice.
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Biography (Critical Survey of Poetry: American Poets)
Born in the small farming community of Madison, Minnesota, Robert Elwood Bly grew up, as he said, a “Lutheran Boy-god.” He attended a one-room school in his early years. Upon graduation from high school, he enlisted in the U.S. Navy, where he first became interested in poetry. After the war, Bly enrolled at St. Olaf’s College in Northfield, Minnesota, but after only one year there, he transferred to Harvard University. At Harvard, he read “the dominant books” of contemporary American poetry, associated with other young writers (among them John Ashbery, Frank O’Hara, Kenneth Koch, Adrienne Rich, and Donald Hall), worked on The Harvard Advocate (which he edited in his senior year), delivered the class poem, and graduated magna cum laude in 1950.
Having decided to be a poet and seeking solitude, Bly moved back to Minnesota; then, in 1951, still “longing for ’the depths,’” he moved to New York City, where he lived alone for several years, reading widely and writing his early poems. In 1953, he moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts, and in 1954 to Iowa City, where he enrolled in the creative writing program at the University of Iowa. His M.A. thesis consisted of a short collection of poems titled “Steps Toward Poverty and Death” (1956). Bly was married to Carolyn McLean in 1955, and in 1956, they moved to Oslo, Norway, via a Fulbright grant. In Norway, Bly sought out his family roots, read widely, and translated contemporary...
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Biography (Cyclopedia of World Authors, Fourth Revised Edition)
Robert Elwood Bly first emerged as a singular voice among the young poets of the 1960’s who were both protesting America’s involvement in the Vietnam War and resisting the erudite, obscurantist tendencies of poetry writing that had been fostered by modernism. In the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, he became a leader in the so-called men’s movement, espousing a rediscovery by American males of ancient notions of masculinity.
The son of Jacob Thomas Bly and Alice Aws Bly, Bly grew up on a farm in rural Minnesota. After graduating from high school toward the end of World War II, he joined the United States Navy and, upon his discharge in 1946, enrolled in a premedical program at St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota. In 1947, Bly transferred to Harvard University, from which he graduated in 1950 with a bachelor’s degree in English literature. He earned a master’s degree at the University of Iowa in Iowa City in 1956 and was awarded a Fulbright grant to visit Norway and translate Norwegian poetry into English.
Bly, who had married Carolyn McLean in 1955, settled on a farm outside his native Madison, where, in 1958, he launched a literary magazine, The Fifties, subsequently published as The Sixties and The Seventies. He advocated an American poetry free of British influences and associated with the poetry of...
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For a twenty-first-century poet, Robert Bly is an anomaly in that he does not make his living teaching at a university or college. Instead, Bly earns his keep writing, not only poetry but nonfiction as well, on subjects such as the men’s movement and the family. He has made a career out of his own spiritual and political preoccupations, a feat very few poets have accomplished. Born in Madison, Minnesota, on December 23, 1926, to farmer Jacob Thomas Bly and his wife, Alice, Bly attended a one-room schoolhouse in Lac Qui Parle County in the western part of the state. While in the navy during World War II, his literary interests blossomed thanks to shipmates Marcus Eisenstein and Warren Ramshaw, who encouraged him to write and read as much as he could, especially poets Carl Sandburg and Walt Whitman. Bly transferred to Harvard after studying writing at St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota. At Harvard, he met poets Adrienne Rich, Kenneth Koch, John Ashbery, and Donald Hall, who has remained a lifelong supporter and friend, and his future wife, Carolyn McLean.
After taking a master of fine arts degree in creative writing at the University of Iowa, he traveled to Norway on a Fulbright grant to translate Norwegian poetry. While in Norway, Bly read the poetry of Latin American surrealist poets such as Pablo Neruda and European surrealists such as Georg Trakl, Tomas Transtroemer, and Juan Ramon Jiminez. The writing of these poets inspired Bly to rethink his...
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