Document Type

Thesis - Open Access

Award Date


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department / School


First Advisor

Paul Witherington


"How beautiful to walk out at midnight in the moonlight/ dreaming of animals." It is samplings of Robert Bly's poetry such as these which have prompted Eliot Weinberger to wonder, "What kind of windbag and language slob would write such a line?" But there are also such fine and startling images as "The bare trees more dignified than ever" or "lamplight that falls on all fours in the grass," which Ian Hamilton admires. Hayden Carruth has encapsulated the view of many of Bly's readers, who regard him as one of the most annoying and exciting poets of the 1960's and 1970's. Paul Ramsey has seen him as a political crank who invents "wantonly cruel lies" in the process of charging the government with "cruelty and lies." William Heyen believes he is a Romantic in the Yeats strain, his Silence in the Snowy Fields comparable to "a cluster of gnats." This converts Heyen unwillingly to praise of Bly's poems: "It will be impossible for me to discuss my change of mind rationally, but I've come to believe that my reservations about Bly were only nigglings, that measuring the accomplishment of his work against petty objections is something like dismissing Moby Dick because Melville loses track of his point of view. Bly is free from the inhibitions of critical dictates many of us have regarded as truths." These are not the voices of critics talking in their usual calm, confident tones about the tenor of an author 's work. Who is the poet Robert Bly who so influenced a generation of readers among which he was widely read and whose work has been the source of so much vexation and praise by critics and readers alike? He is a 58 year old Madison, Minnesota, farmer's son. Bly was the second son his brother James was one and a half years older. Their mother, Alice Aws Bly, worked at the courthouse in Madison for many years, and the Bly children were cared for by Marie Schmidt. In addition, a hired farm hand named Art Nelson lived with the Bly’s for nine years. Bly described his father, Jacob, as a man who was both a reader and a farmer. Later it was Robert who became the reader of books and his brother James who became the farmer.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Bly, Robert -- Criticism and interpretation



Number of Pages



South Dakota State University


No Copyright - United State