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The Light Around the Body

3.91  ·  Rating details ·  160 ratings  ·  20 reviews
Originally published in 1967 and Winner of the National Book Award in that year.
Paperback, 63 pages
Published 1967 by Harper & Row
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3.91  · 
Rating details
 ·  160 ratings  ·  20 reviews

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Bill  Kerwin
Oct 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 20th-c-amer, poetry

This old book leaps to new to life in these days of Generalissimo Trump. Written during the Kennedy/Johnson years, it was fashioned, out of Spanish and Latin American materials (and maybe a few threads of Ginsberg too), into a protest poetry fit for the United States, a crazy new poetry that had what it takes to descend into the American darkness.

Their time was different from ours—the presidents were saner, their advisers smarter, their actions not nearly so reckless, never quite so close to su
Danielle Bessette
Aug 18, 2017 rated it did not like it
I did not enjoy this poetry. It was incredibly dark, and though a small book, and with "light" in the title - incredibly heavy. Death, cold, winter, the insignificance of human life in the expanses of nature on every page. I wrote a bunch of frowny faces in the margins to mark where extreme discomfort was elicited, or audible "BLEH" sounds. It just made me feel sad and cold. At least it was a short book, over quickly?
Feb 21, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry
[rating = C+]
First things first, Robert Bly always surprises the reader with beautiful lines: "A home in dark grass / And nourishment in death." However, this collection of poems is so political and anti-Vietnam, that I got a bit tired of it. (Really, his most successful poems are the nature poems, especially the last six or so at the end.) Maybe I didn't like most of them because they had this Ashberyan sort of abstraction that tends to plant several images in a collage and make the reader gues
Nov 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
I liked this book a lot. It's especially interesting in the Trump era. One poem struck me as teeming with sexism; so I knocked it down a star.
Maughn Gregory
Dec 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
Dark protest poetry from the era of Kennedy / Johnson, including harrowing poems about the Viet Nam War.
Jan 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018
Bly’s poems are rich in tangible, gritty details which give them a visceral jolt and thud. His sometimes desolate landscapes are alive in their silence.
Sep 03, 2013 rated it liked it
I read the title of the book and anticipated something completely different than I encountered. I guess I was hoping for something spiritually uplifting, but Bly's The Light Around The Body is more "dark night of the soul."

The poetry is dark and violent - reflective, I suppose, of the times (mid to late sixties - Vietnam war, Bay of Pigs, Kennedy, Cold War, etc.)

Bly's collection is broken into five parts, and each part begins with a quotation from Jakob Boehme, a German Christian mystic and the
Jun 06, 2010 rated it liked it
The Vietnam poems have aged best, even though they benefit the most from historical context. Bly's emotions are astoundingly palpable through sometimes pitch-black opacity (and often darkness describes these poems best). The book's arc is somewhat of a movement from outside-to-inside, an informing principle borrowed from Boehme, so most readers will either go from picking up to losing it's signal, or progressively tuning in to Bly's transcendence. Just let whatever comes at you with the most vel ...more
Josh Boggs
Nov 22, 2015 rated it did not like it
Shelves: poetry
Deeply powerful cynicism spurred by American warmongering, but also a less successful striving for natural mysticism. At times the poems come unmoored amidst their wide-ranging imagery and a piling-on that sloughs thematic rigor, but sometimes the risk pays off, as below.

"That we should learn of poverty and rags,
That we should taste the weed of Dillinger,
And swim in the sea,
Not always walking on dry land,
And, dancing, find in the trees a saviour,
A home in dark grass,
And nourishment in death."
Jan 22, 2009 rated it liked it
I particularly enjoyed the poems about Vietnam. Many of the others I didn't have enough knowledge of the era to understand, but the images of war seem to transcend time fairly well.

He quotes Jacob Boehme several times. One which was:

"When we think of it with this knowledge, we see that we have been locked up, and led blindfold, and it is the wise of this world who have shut and locked us up in their art and their rationality, so that we have had to see with their eyes."

I picked this up in a mini-survey of 'deep image' poets. Many of the poems were difficult to access because they were deeply concerned with contemporary politics and the historical moment when they were written; I had a better time with the poems that dealt with death, artistic renewal and other universal themes, where the imagery could find more space to resonate in this 2008 reader.
May 08, 2014 rated it it was ok
A few hits and a lot of misses. These poems are very much tied to place and time, so if you don't know what he's talking about, you really don't know what he's talking about. On top of that they are just too opaque for my taste.
Jun 28, 2010 rated it really liked it
I'm a little turned off by Bly's criticism, so I had expected his poetry not to resonate, but I was wrong. As the poems steadily descend into pure 'image,' Bly proves he can navigate a forthright emotional poetry without lapsing into the vapid trippiness that characterizes some of his ideas.
Sep 07, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I registered a book at!
Aug 26, 2015 rated it really liked it
I very much like his similes -- "[we] drift / Like a radish" "Like sunlight drifting onto the carpet / Where the casket stands, not knowing which would it is in."
Aug 11, 2015 rated it liked it
I usually like Robert Bly poetry although this isn't my favorite I did enjoy it.
Aug 10, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Robert Bly is a national treasure.
Dec 25, 2010 rated it it was amazing
YES! First poem kicked my ass. Take that, THE MAN!
Feb 13, 2009 rated it really liked it
A unique poetic perspective on the '60s.
rated it it was ok
Jun 20, 2008
Matt Layne
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Jan 25, 2011
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Jul 30, 2008
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Oct 31, 2016
Michael Koehler
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Aug 03, 2009
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Aug 27, 2008
Monkey C
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Aug 07, 2007
Kyle V
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Mar 16, 2009
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Feb 24, 2015
Jeff Schiff
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Jul 05, 2008
Ly Madden
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Jul 13, 2017
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Robert Bly is an American poet, author, activist and leader of the Mythopoetic Men's Movement.
Robert Bly was born in western Minnesota in 1926 to parents of Norwegian stock. He enlisted in the Navy in 1944 and spent two years there. After one year at St. Olaf College in Minnesota, he transferred to Harvard and thereby joined the famous group of writers who were undergraduates at that time, which i