Loving a Woman in Two Worlds
Robert Bly’s concern with the relationships between the sexes is an outgrowth of his well-known earlier poems that proselytize woman’s civilizing influence on man. Here, Bly frequently explores facets of the male psyche, left bewilderingly incomplete without access to the feminine. In “Fifty Males Sitting Together,” the poet imagines fifty males as reeds, each with its own thin “thread of darkness inside.” While they aspire to grow upward, they meanwhile feel “relaxed,” rooted in the (feminine) mud.
In “The Indigo Bunting,” a poem of controlled passion and classical forthrightness, the poet awaits the return of his beloved, whom he imagines returning, “not swerving,” like the indigo bunting “passing over two/ thousand miles of ocean.” It is the presence of this “firmness” that “Disdains the trivial/ and regains the difficult,” that the poet loves most.
Elsewhere, the poet bravely owns up to his shortcomings as a partner. He identifies these faults as the result of the male impulse to idealize and be swept away (“the hurricane carries/ off the snail”). Typically, Bly roots his arguments in natural images, thereby naturalizing the human plight and assuaging blunt human loneliness (“The birches live where no one else comes,/ deep in the unworried woods”).
One of Bly’s presiding themes is that of contentment (or its lack, which he identifies as a male predisposition). In “A Third Body,”...
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