All Day I Loved You in a Fever: The Poetry of Robert Bly

I was first intrigued by Robert Bly’s poetry when I came across a description of his life and work in Michael Schmidt’s Lives of the Poets. While browsing a used bookshop in New England a few weekends ago, I bought a slim, hardcover volume of his poetry entitled, “Loving a Woman in Two Worlds.” My copy is not only in fine condition, but it is signed and inscribed by the author with a little drawing.

Love poems can so quickly become oversaturated with sappy cliches about lovesickness and heartache. But Bly uses images of mature, sensual, deep, long-lasting love as his inspiration for his collection. His poems are brief and are usually set in nature:

At Midocean

All day I loved you in a fever, holding on to the tail
of the horse.
I overflowed whenever I reached out to touch you.
My hand moved over your body, covered
with its dress,
burning, rough, an animals foot or hand moving
over leaves.
The rainstorm retires, clouds open, sunlight
sliding over ocean water a thousand miles from land.

The sense of contentment and sheer, unadulterated joy comes through in his poem “A Third Body.” A relationship is more than two people, it is how they are together—their history, their jokes, their private moments—that Bly personifies as a third body in this poem.

A Third Body

A man and a woman sit near each other, and they do
not long
at this moment to be older, or younger, nor born
in any other nation, or time, or place.
They are content to be where they are, talking or
not-talking.
Their breaths together feed someone whom we do
not know.
The man sees the way his fingers move;
he sees her hands close around a book she hands
to him.
They obey a third body that they share in common.
They have made a promise to love that body.
Age many come, parting may come, death will come.
A man and a woman sit near each other;
as they breathe they feed someone we do not know,
someone we know of, whom we have never seen.

The final one I will share from this collection describes love as a secret. Not a secret as in an illicit love affair, but instead a love that is quiet and calm and very private which makes it stronger and “unworried.”

Secrets

I walk below the over-bending birches,
birches that arch together in the air.
It is an omen of an open door,
a fear no longer found in the wind.
Are there unions only the earth sees?
The birches live where no on else comes
deep in the unworried woods...
These sandgrains looked at by deer bellies.

In addition to being a talented poet, Bly was also an essayist and translator. I intend to explore more of his work in the coming year.

Signed and inscribed with a little drawing by Robert Bly

11 Comments

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11 responses to “All Day I Loved You in a Fever: The Poetry of Robert Bly

  1. Those are beautiful poems, Melissa – a poet who’s new to me so thank you for introducing us.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. He has a wonderful intimacy with nature: I have a dinky little copy of Silence in the Snowy Fields which I used to keep in my pocket, as it always calmed me down…

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank you for sharing Bly’s “A Third Body.” It means a lot to me.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Rohan Maitzen

    Lovely, Melissa – and like others here, I did not know his poetry before this, so thank you for sharing.

    Like

  5. Thank you very much for this poetic choice and presentation.
    Best wishes with seasonal greetings

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I saw Bly read in 1989, I think. He had his bazuki on stage with him on a cold night in New Hampshire. Around the Iron-John phase, already a white-haired old goat, he put on a show. I was studying with Charlie Simic at UNH and so had a tangential interest in deep image poetry. Bly may not have been a major poet but was one of those great men who put himself in the service of poetry. The Leaping Poetry anthology was one of the most influential books I read … next to James Wright’s the Branch Will Not Break, which he wrote of course at Bly’s farm in Minnesota.

    Liked by 1 person

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