Friday Jul 18, 2003

Iron John

Poet Robert Bly has translated the work of numerous South American poets, including Pablo Neruda of Chile who liked to fly kites on the beach. Bly is also the author of a number of nonfiction books; I highly recommend his allegorical work Iron John: A Book about Men (1990).

For more about Robert Bly, visit Questia —the online library for research.

Here is an excerpt from The Incorporative Consciousness of Robert Bly

by Victoria Frenkel Harris

In his essay “The Dead World and the Live World” (1966), Robert Bly distinguishes between two kinds of poetic consciousness, that which brings “news of the human mind” (he would include the confessional poets in this category) and that which brings “news of the universe.” The second kind of poetry requires that the poet go deeply inward, “far back into the brain,” where he is likely to find what, in “The Work of James Wright” (1966), Bly calls “some bad news about himself, some   anguish that discursive reasoning had for a long time protected him against” (66-67).

But the poet must not stop there. He or she must penetrate “much deeper than the ego . . . at the same time [becoming] aware of many other beings” (“Dead World” 6). Ultimately, the poet achieves those depths where “life inside the brain and the life outside” exist “at the same instant” (7). The incarnation of the poem crystallizes at this point of perception, at this subjective instant of simultaneous interaction between the perceiver and the perceived.

This type of poetic consciousness, which I have called the incorporative consciousness, seeks to integrate self, others, and the cultural and physical worlds. Aesthetically, the incorporative consciousness endorses intuition and subjectivity, psychic integration forming its central goal. Differing from the more conceptual or rhetorically conceived metaphor, which linearly compares vehicle and tenor, the incorporative mode reconciles both, often in paradoxical fashion.

Author Harris writes well. I would, however, refine her description of incorporative consciousness. Intuition is God talking through your soul. Endorsing intuition is like approving of air, water, or gravity. Clearly there is no point in endorsing that which exists—as intuition exists with or without literary sanction.

Intuition must be experienced first hand. All else is hearsay.»

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