Bly is most explicitly [a] mystic of evolution, [a] poet of "the other world" always contained in present reality but now about to burst forth in a period of destruction and transformation. Bly's poetry of the transformation of man follows logically from his early poetry of individual and private transcendence. Repeatedly, Silence in the Snowy Fields (1962) announces an "awakening" that comes paradoxically in sleep, in darkness, in death, an awakening depicted in surrealist images as compelling as they are mysterious, evasive. Bly's sense of mystical transformation is not really completely articulated until, primarily in the 1967 collection The Light Around the Body, it achieves an apocalyptic dimension, the awakening no longer individual or private, but part of the spiritual evolution of the race.
This general awakening, like the analogous experience of the isolated mystic, comes in the long dark night of a dying civilization. The poems of ecstatic prophecy in Light achieve much of their force by juxtaposition with the poems of political despair which dominate the collection. Constantly and convincingly Bly suggests that the psychological impact of Vietnam on America is as destructive as the physical presence of America in Vietnam; the victims in "Those Being Eaten by America" are not Vietnamese but Americans…. Bly's spiritual perceptions find physical articulation not only because Bly the poet uses images which make the abstract concrete, but because Bly the mystic of "the two worlds … both in this world" has always sought transcendence through immersion in the physical. Frequently his concrete imagery suggests the traditional apocalyptic vision of destruction in order to define the end of a psychological process already begun. (pp. 112-13)
But the confluence of physical and psychological or spiritual in Bly is most...
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