Talking Into the Ear of a Donkey – Poems Paperback – Import, 20 Nov 2012
The clear diction of Talking into the Ear of a Donkey makes accessible its transcendental themes, including the wisdom of the animal world and the spiritual connection between humankind and nature. . . . [Bly’s] poems, while spiritual, celebrate the worldly delights: shining fish, giant moose and bird song. — Minneapolis Star-Tribune
About the Author
Robert Bly is the author of numerous poetry volumes, as well as works of nonfiction and translation. His honors include the Poetry Society of America’s Frost Medal and the National Book Award. He lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
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Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
True to his voice, the poems in the book are strong in images - a favourite of mine being "lobster's playing bone guitars." The range of subjects is wide including nature, ageing, family dynamics, and psychology. The title poem is a humorous take on the task of writing. A few more reflect his political concerns. Those familiar Bly over the years will recognize some poems here as rewrites from earlier collections- another typical trait- particularly in the fourth section which are ramages, a form he has invented.
If a criticism is to be raised, it is occasionally an image of phase seems to strive for effect, but generally Bly's imagination has not dimmed with age. There is a joy and sparkle in the language that combines physicality, reflectiveness and his personal mysticism. There is plenty to delight fans, who will not feel let down.
That being said, I am ecstatic in reading this collection and realizing that Bly, now well into his eighties, is producing some of his best poems in years. Much like the aged W.B. Yeats, Bly effortlessly exhibits, in the best of these late poems, the fruits of a lifetime of observing, reading, studying, & contemplating the rich, multifaceted nature of life on this planet--human and non-human, good and bad, esoteric and exoteric. I cannot begin to express how deeply moved and encouraged I have been in reading many of these poems. "My Father at Forty" is a specially strong example of what Wordsworth referred to as "emotion recollected in tranquility." There is so much honest emotion compacted into a few deceptively quiet lines, that I find it almost impossible to read this poem without weeping.
That's just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the poetic riches here. Bly's well-known transcendentalist meditations are well on display, but, again, exhibiting his mature, un-ostentatious knowledge of the world's great wisdom traditions. I especially love the last lines of "The Big-Nostrilled Moose": "Slowly, obstinately, we retrieve the pleasures/The Fathers, angry with the Gnostics, threw away."
So much historical, theological, philosophical, and cultural significance can be unpacked from those two simple but heavily laden verses.
Needless to say, I heartily endorse this volume, and, for novices who are interested in further exploring Robert Bly's poetry, I urge you to obtain a copy of the new and selected poems, "Stealing Sugar from the Castle."
One of my favorite stanzas:
It's all right if we can't remain cheerful all day.
The task we have accepted is to go down
To renew our friendship with the ruined things.