The Light Around the Body

The Light Around the Body Originally published in and Winner of the National Book Award in that year

  • Title: The Light Around the Body
  • Author: Robert Bly
  • ISBN: null
  • Page: 417
  • Format: Paperback
  • Originally published in 1967 and Winner of the National Book Award in that year.

    One thought on “The Light Around the Body”

    1. This old book leaps to new to life in these days of Generalissimo Trump. Written during the Kennedy/Johnson years, it was fashioned, out of Spanish and Latin American materials (and maybe a few threads of Ginsberg too), into a protest poetry fit for the United States, a crazy new poetry that had what was needed to descend into the American darkness. Their time was different from ours—the presidents were saner, their advisers smarter, their actions not nearly so reckless, never quite so close t [...]

    2. I did not enjoy this poetry. It was incredibly dark, and though a small book, and with "light" in the title - incredibly heavy. Death, cold, winter, the insignificance of human life in the expanses of nature on every page. I wrote a bunch of frowny faces in the margins to mark where extreme discomfort was elicited, or audible "BLEH" sounds. It just made me feel sad and cold. At least it was a short book, over quickly?

    3. Bly’s poems are rich in tangible, gritty details which give them a visceral jolt and thud. His sometimes desolate landscapes are alive in their silence.

    4. I read the title of the book and anticipated something completely different than I encountered. I guess I was hoping for something spiritually uplifting, but Bly's The Light Around The Body is more "dark night of the soul." The poetry is dark and violent - reflective, I suppose, of the times (mid to late sixties - Vietnam war, Bay of Pigs, Kennedy, Cold War, etc.)Bly's collection is broken into five parts, and each part begins with a quotation from Jakob Boehme, a German Christian mystic and the [...]

    5. The Vietnam poems have aged best, even though they benefit the most from historical context. Bly's emotions are astoundingly palpable through sometimes pitch-black opacity (and often darkness describes these poems best). The book's arc is somewhat of a movement from outside-to-inside, an informing principle borrowed from Boehme, so most readers will either go from picking up to losing it's signal, or progressively tuning in to Bly's transcendence. Just let whatever comes at you with the most vel [...]

    6. Deeply powerful cynicism spurred by American warmongering, but also a less successful striving for natural mysticism. At times the poems come unmoored amidst their wide-ranging imagery and a piling-on that sloughs thematic rigor, but sometimes the risk pays off, as below."That we should learn of poverty and rags,That we should taste the weed of Dillinger,And swim in the sea,Not always walking on dry land,And, dancing, find in the trees a saviour,A home in dark grass,And nourishment in death."

    7. I particularly enjoyed the poems about Vietnam. Many of the others I didn't have enough knowledge of the era to understand, but the images of war seem to transcend time fairly well. He quotes Jacob Boehme several times. One which was: "When we think of it with this knowledge, we see that we have been locked up, and led blindfold, and it is the wise of this world who have shut and locked us up in their art and their rationality, so that we have had to see with their eyes."

    8. I picked this up in a mini-survey of 'deep image' poets. Many of the poems were difficult to access because they were deeply concerned with contemporary politics and the historical moment when they were written; I had a better time with the poems that dealt with death, artistic renewal and other universal themes, where the imagery could find more space to resonate in this 2008 reader.

    9. A few hits and a lot of misses. These poems are very much tied to place and time, so if you don't know what he's talking about, you really don't know what he's talking about. On top of that they are just too opaque for my taste.

    10. I'm a little turned off by Bly's criticism, so I had expected his poetry not to resonate, but I was wrong. As the poems steadily descend into pure 'image,' Bly proves he can navigate a forthright emotional poetry without lapsing into the vapid trippiness that characterizes some of his ideas.

    11. I very much like his similes -- "[we] drift / Like a radish" "Like sunlight drifting onto the carpet / Where the casket stands, not knowing which would it is in."

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