Thursday, December 29, 2005


The following is from an interview with Robert Bly on Bly's website -- it's a fascinating site... but then, I'm a huge admirer, esp. of his criticism and translations:

Donald Hall and I have been sending poems back and forth twice a week for forty years. At one time, we had a 48-hour rule: the other had to answer within 48 hours. My generation did a lot with letters. Galway Kinnell and Louis Simpson and Don and I and James Wright would often send five- and six-page typed letters commenting on and arguing with each others' poems. I'm amazed we had the time for that. Tranströmer and I exchanged hundreds of letters. The gist of it is that no one writes alone: One needs a community.

Voila! The way in which poetry lends itself to community -- glorious get-togethers with writerly company for sharing, feedback, wine, song, etc. -- is but one thing which brought me back into its fold after a haitus of nearly a decade (during which I wrote songs, recorded an album, even tried to get a music career off the ground...something I rarely talk about on this blog.) Trouble is, these get-togethers don't always manage to coalesce (this I write after yet another fell through earlier this month...). People are so busy these days, with family obligations, house repairs, etc... it requires a degree of commitment and availability that not many of us can muster at any given stage of our lives.

Hence the usefulness of poetry boards -- in particular, Eratosphere. Discovered this one through Whimsy Speaks (Jeff Bahr). In some post of his he mentioned that of 60 poems he had gotten published, only 2 hadn’t gone through the acid test of a poetry board like this one. That in itself was remarkable piece of information. Following the link, I was truly impressed by what I saw. The discussion is at a pretty high level -- as were a number of the poems on the boards. The site appears to have had the likes of Richard Wilber and Anthony Hecht as visiting “Poet Lariats” for a day. There is an interesting division between beginning and advanced levels of metric poetry (an area I probably won't participate in much -- there seemed to be a lot of light verse there, which I rarely enjoy). I also liked some of the open discussions. Most certainly in the coming year I'll be spending more time on on-line boards such as these -- even though, of course, that means an even more inordinate amount of time with my eyes glued to a computer screen.

Back to Bly though -- one thing you can say for him, with all those books, translations, appearances, review editing, etc.: he had (and has) one serious work ethic worked out there. Serious, yet joyful, as he obviously loves what he does. He's still got quite a gig-list going, for a man just shy of 80!

If you want to hear a recent Robert Bly reading, check out this site. I enjoyed this reading a lot.


Jonathan said...

Why do you admire Bly's translations? He is generally considered a horrible translator, something I have verified with his translations from the Spanish.

Brian Campbell said...

Good for you -- but I don't think the consensus is as general as you make out.

Steven D. Schroeder said...

Eratosphere is *very* slanted to the metrical, so be careful if that's not your thing. On the other hand, the discussion there is as deep and rigorous as at any online board. I'm a bit tired of the whole poetry forum thing myself, but that's one of the more acceptable ones to visit.

Brian Campbell said...

Thanks very much for dropping by, Steven! I sensed that too about Eratosphere -- and from the flowery font and quills (are there quills? that logo looks like it was drawn by one) some rather, let's say, precious assumptions about poetry that go with. What are other acceptable poetry forums in your experience?