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.