Robert Bly, with his wild white hair, solid Norwegian build and piercing gaze, would be an intimidating figure even if you encountered him just on the street. Like a modern-day Walt Whitman, there is something about Bly that's provocative, impassioned and larger-than-life. It's as if his poetry -- collected in The Rag and Bone Shop of the Heart, Eating the Honey of Words and Morning Poems, runs wild in his veins and connects him to a primeval world all but hidden behind TV and pop culture.
Although Bly has been writing poetry since before World War II -- he served overseas and attended Harvard on the G.I. Bill -- it wasn't until 1990 and the publication of Iron John that Bly's work reached the mainstream. His exploration of myth and folktale resonated with male audiences and he found himself at the front of a movement that sought to connect men with their archetypal strengths and values.
The famously outspoken Bly's newest book, The Insanity of Empire, is a fiery collection of poems critiquing the current war in Iraq.
Rita Dove is also the embodiment of the Great American Poet. She served as Poet Laureate of the United States from 1993-1995 and is both the youngest person and the first African American to do so. She was born in Akron, Ohio, in 1952 and was invited to the White House in 1970 as a Presidential Scholar before later attending Miami University and studying in Germany as a Fulbright scholar for two years. She is currently the Poet Laureate of Virginia and holds the chair as Commonwealth Professor of English at the University of Virginia.
Dove's first book, The Yellow House on the Corner, was published in 1980; since then, she's become one of the leading figures in contemporary American poetry. She won the Pulitzer Prize in 1987 for her collection Thomas and Beulah, a series of interconnected poems based in part on stories from her grandparents' lives. In addition to her poetry, she's also published several short story collections, a verse drama and a series of her lectures as poet laureate. Glamour magazine named her one of its "Outstanding Women of 1993," she's appeared on Sesame Street and has been a regular contributor to Garrison Keillor's Prairie Home Companion. Her latest book, published in 2004, is the poetry collection American Smooth.
Robert Bly and Rita Dove read on Sunday, April 17, at 7 pm at the Met Theatre, 901 W. Sprague. Tickets: $25. Call 325-SEAT.
Publication date: 04/14/05