2019 BP Calendar "Minnesota Heroes" (Robert Bly)
Robert Bly (born in Madison, Minnesota) was one of the greatest poets of the Minnesota countryside. He won the National Book Award for Poetry, which is our nation’s highest award. He has done a lot to influence American poetry for several reasons, one being he translated many poetry greats like Neruda, Lorca and Vallejo, Rilke and Rumi. Bly brought the world into American writing at a time when it was very closed off, in the 50s, which also means he broadened the country’s politics. As Minnesota’s first Poet Laureate he pioneered a shift in how men’s roles could be seen, and challenged macho models. He has over 40 collections of poetry and amassed many awards in writing including the Robert Frost Medal, which was a lifetime achievement award from the Poetry Society of America.
A lovely way to summarize a great man’s legacy is from something that Marie How said to him about the famous conferences he held: “You brought men together and let them feel their feelings without holding a beer in their hands.”
This is especially moving to me in a time in which it seems like men are not allowed to embrace emotions at all, and toxic masculinity is deafening. Thank you for your contributions to the world from one rural Minnesotan creative to another.
An excerpt from his daughter Mary’s favorite poem:
I am driving; it is dusk; Minnesota.
The stubble field catches the last growth of sun.
The soybeans are breathing on all sides.
Old men are sitting before their houses on car seats
In the small towns. I am happy,
The moon rising above the turkey sheds.
The small world of the car
Plunges through the deep fields of the night,
On the road from Willmar to Milan.
This solitude covered with iron
Moves through the fields of night
Penetrated by the noise of crickets.