World-renowned poet Bly at Beloit College

BELOIT, Wis.—Robert Bly has done it all: won major prizes, published best-sellers, traveled the world, transformed the literary landscape, challenged conventional thinking, irritated, alienated, delighted, enchanted, amused, and enlightened his audiences.

On Nov. 8-9, the ground-breaking poet, editor, translator, storyteller and Minnesota native will visit Beloit College to give a talk and read from his latest book. It will mark more than 25 years of a relationship between the poet and Beloit College.

On Monday, Nov. 8, at 8 p.m., Bly will read from his own poems and from his new volume of selected translations The Winged Energy of Delight in the Wilson Theatre in Mayer Hall on campus. At 4 p.m., Tuesday, Nov. 9, in Moore Lounge in Pearsons Hall, he will give a talk “Beyond Boundaries,” a broad topic related to internationalism. Following his reading on Monday, he will sign copies of his books in the lobby of Wilson Theatre.

Bly’s visit to campus coincides with the college’s celebration of International Education Week (Nov. 8-12), and there could not be a more apt fit. Through his translations, Bly has done more than any other American poet to increase the public’s consciousness of the works of contemporary writers not previously known in the United States. Many of these writers have gone on to win the Nobel Prize, including Pablo Neruda, Vicente Alexandre and Harry Martinson.

Bly’s visibility and prominence in what some have called the “men’s movement” made his a household name, reviled by some, idolized by others. Some of this attention, however, is misdirected, for his interest in gender was sparked by a deep commitment to Jungian psychology, and, in fact, began with an analysis of the importance of women in our culture.

For all his other accomplishments, Bly has achieved his greatest success as a poet. The list of his books seems infinite and includes What Have I Ever Lost by Dying?, and Meditations on the Insatiable Soul, both published by Harper Collins. His collection, Morning Poems (Harper Collins), named for William Stafford’s practice of writing a poem each morning, revisits the western Minnesota farm country of Bly’s boyhood with marvelous wit and warmth. His new selected poems, Eating the Honey of Words, has recently appeared from Harper Flamingo, as well as his translations of the poet Ghalib, The Lightning Should Have Fallen on Ghalib (with Sunil Dutta) from Ecco Press.

He has also edited the prestigious Best American Poetry 1999 (Scribners), and his work Iron John: A Book About Men is an international best-seller that has been translated into many languages.

As a performer of poetry, he has few peers. In the mid-1970s, his readings became legendary, often lasting three or more hours, and including Shakespeare on the dulcimer and masked recitations of the Campbell’s soup jingle.

Bly’s connection to Beloit began early. He tells of driving through the Midwest in the 1950s, seeing the glow of the city and thinking of the Beloit Poetry Journal as one of the lights in the darkness. (The Beloit Poetry Journal, founded by three Beloit College professors in 1950, is noted for publishing early works by poets like Langston Hughes and Anne Sexton and for its translations of world poetry.) Bly also created the Great Mother Traveling Troupe in Beloit in the late 1970s with the encouragement of friends in the area, including Beloit Professor of English John Rosenwald and Ann Arbor, Rosenwald’s wife. The troupe barnstormed the Midwest with improvisational theater. In the mid-1990s, Bly returned to Beloit and drew a huge audience and passionate response to a talk about gender in Eaton Chapel.

Both of Robert Bly’s November appearances are open to the public and are free of charge.

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