cover image Gratitude to Old Teachers

Gratitude to Old Teachers

Robert W. Bly. BOA Editions, $7 (21pp) ISBN 978-1-880238-01-1

While Bly's ( Iron John ) prose writing has been championed for its timely translation of male archetypes into contemporary role models, the imagery that has always been the core of his poems has changed little over the past 30 years. A poem in this volume dedicated to James Wright applies the same highly charged political diction that informed the antiwar poems of Light Around the Body in 1968; other pieces here seem to have their roots in Bly's 1962 volume Silence in the Snowy Fields ; and a few prose poems are virtually indistinguishable from 1970s poems written under the influence of Erich Neumann's theories of The Great Mother. These new poems are generally adequate but not among his best work. In one, based on a dream, he and William Carlos Williams are discussing poetry's formal considerations; in another he compares Walt Whitman to a rabbinical teacher. The longest poem, a three-page meditation on water (``but water / comes to us-- / it doesn't care / about us''), is so trite it's embarrassing. This minuscule 21-page volume, centered around the (usually literary) male figures who have informed his recent work, too obviously forges marketable connections with the poet's newfound fame. (May)