Brian Curling © 2012 All Rights Reserved

Featured Poet


Robert Bly


Sticking to the Subject

I don’t know about this face. As Bill
Would say—it has handles, but what will
You do with it? It gets me into doctors’
Offices, and it helps on the passport,
But whose face is it?

I don’t think it’s me. It’s some other person’s
Face, whom I haven’t met. We exchanged
Faces, long ago, when I decided on
The best way to be famous. I remember that day—
It was about noon.

And now I’m a kind of agent for
Myself—the best part of me, of course.
But my face is confused. “Do you love
Me?” it asks. I don’t know about that—
You mean for sure?


* * *

Poem for the Sitar

Oh yes, the little notes are hurrying to catch up with the big notes.
Let’s all try to touch the place where the notes begin.
Let’s all enjoy the forty-five days left of summer.
Why go on waiting for the leaves to fall?
The notes lost during the last summer are arriving and asking for a
        bed for the night.
The notes flew in from some other country.
Let’s go out and greet them.
The instrument is scattering these notes all over the city.
Let’s go out and be glad.


* * *

What Bill Stafford Said Last Week


I’m ready to bend my head.
I’m tired of passion.
I’ll agree to be grass
If I can stay out all night.


* * *

The Snow on the Branch

I said to my soul: Are you still with me?
I have loved you so long . . . the snow piled
On the branch . . . so easy for the wind to blow it off!

We’ve met in secret places where no one else
Could find us, between our favorite trees,
When no one else was in the orchard.

It’s still all right if we meet late at night,
Whispering and keeping our secrets
While the others are asleep.


Robert Bly
All Poems Copyright © 2012

Robert Bly’s most recent book of poetry is Talking Into the Ear of a Donkey (W. W. Norton). He has also recently published a selection of prose poems, Reaching Out to the World (White Pine), and a translation of Hafez (with Leonard Lewisohn), Angels Knocking on the Tavern Door (HarperCollins). He was also one of the first American translators of the Nobel Prize-winning Swedish poet Tomas Tranströmer, and his translations of Tranströmer, The Half-Finished Heaven, are available from Graywolf Press.



from Poet’s Bookshelf: Contemporary Poets On Books That Shaped Their Art

poet Robert Bly

     If I’m asked to comment on books that were a strong influence on me in my twenties, this would be a broadside on amazement. I was brought up, so to speak, with poetry of carefully modulated admirations and elaborately suited poetic bodies. When I first came upon Juan Ramón's “naked poetry,” I was amazed. He talked about it himself.

At first she came to me pure,
dressed only in her innocence;
and I loved her as we love a child.

Then she began putting on
clothes she picked up somewhere;
and I hated her, without knowing it.

…She started going back toward nakedness.
And I smiled…

Then she took off the cloth
and was entirely naked . . .
Naked poetry, always mine,
that I have loved my whole life!

I was amazed at this. It helped me to begin a poem by saying,

Oh on an early morning I think I shall live forever.
I am wrapped in my joyful flesh
As the grass is wrapped in its clouds of green.

So I could say that nakedness put me into a new world as far from Alexander Pope as from E. E. Cummings, as far from T. S. Eliot as from Allen Tate.
    Jiménez's friend Antonio Machado took me by the hand and said:

Last night as I was sleeping
I dreamt—marvelous error!—
that I had a beehive
here inside my heart.
And the golden bees
were making white combs
and sweet honey
from my old failures.

So when Jim Wright said,

While I stood here, in the open, lost in myself,
I must have looked a long time
Down the corn rows, beyond grass,
The small house,
White walls, animals lumbering toward the barn. . . .
At a touch of my hand,
The air fills with delicate creatures
From the other world.

That was enough for me. I understood the idea. Wallace Stevens does a lot of the same sort of delicate stuff in Harmonium. That was enough for me. I got the picture.



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