Once upon a time, Robert Bly was a respectable poet. In 1967, his second book won the National Book Award for Poetry. Then politics drove him nuts, at least insofar as his aesthetic judgment is concerned. Thus the drivel that Rocket Man has reproduced below from today’s Minneapolis Star Tribune. Here is a photograph of Bly at an antiwar poetry reading in 1970.
Bly is a native Minnesotan and the roster of Minnesota poets of any accomplishment is not long. But one genuine poet with a Minnesota connection was John Berryman, who died by his own hand in 1972 while on the faculty of the University of Minnesota.
Berryman’s major work was a series of what he called Dream Songs, narrated by his alter ego Henry. Above is a photograph of the famously alcolohic Berryman at work on the Dream Songs at a Dublin pub in 1967. Dream Song 324, “An Elegy for W.C.W. [William Carlos Williams, physician and poet], the lovely man,” is an elegy that both powerfully pays tribute to Williams and intimates Berryman’s own sad end:
Henry in Ireland to Bill underground:
Rest well, who worked so hard, who made a good sound
constantly, for so many years:
your high-jinks delighted the continents & our ears:
you had so many girls your life was a triumph
and you loved your one wife.
At dawn you rose & wrote–the books poured forth–
you delivered infinite babies, in one great birth–
and your generosity
to juniors made you deeply loved, deeply:
if envy was a Henry trademark, he would envy you,
especially the being through.
Too many journeys lie for him ahead,
too many galleys & page-proofs to be read,
he would like to lie down
in your sweet silence, to whom was not denied
the mysterious late excellence which is the crown
of our trials & our last bride.
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