cover image American Poetry: Wildness and Domesticity

American Poetry: Wildness and Domesticity

Robert W. Bly. HarperCollins Publishers, $22.5 (341pp) ISBN 978-0-06-016265-8

The overriding question posed in poet Bly's ( Selected Poems ) collection of essays is, ``Where do we go to find poetry that flies?'' The book reflects 30 years of musing on the answers, with specific reference to contemporary American poetry (though few women are welcomed as members of this club). The volume is divided into three parts. ``Looking for Dragon Smoke'' compiles the various platforms and philosophies of Bly's magazine The Fifties, The Sixties and The Seventies. ``The Bread of This World: Twelve Contemporary Poets,'' showing Bly at his most inspired, concentrates on individual poets--James Wright, Robert Lowell, Denise Levertov and nine others. ``Educating the Rider and the Horse'' consists of essays charting the direction of poetry and examining the relationship of intellect, politics, form and, most important, ``wildness'' to the genre. Throughout, Bly criticizes American poets for their willingness to abandon inward contemplation: ``Poetry without inwardness or revolutionary feeling has no choice but to end in a kind of fabricated grossness,'' he argues. Provocative and opinionated at their best, Bly's inside views are without exception seriously considered. (Aug.)