The Night Abraham Called to the Stars

The Night Abraham Called to the Stars

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by Robert Bly
     
 

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Robert Bly's new collection of poetry is made of forty-eight poems written in the intricate form called the ghazal, which is the central poetic form in Islam. The influence of Hafez and Rumi is clear, and yet the poems descend into the wealth of Western history, referring at times to Monet, Giordano Bruno,Emerson, St. Francis, Newton, and Chekhov, as well

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Overview

Robert Bly's new collection of poetry is made of forty-eight poems written in the intricate form called the ghazal, which is the central poetic form in Islam. The influence of Hafez and Rumi is clear, and yet the poems descend into the wealth of Western history, referring at times to Monet, Giordano Bruno,Emerson, St. Francis, Newton, and Chekhov, as well as to events in Bly's own life. The leaping between joy and "ruin" produces a poetry which makes him, as Kenneth Rexroth noted, "one of the leaders in a poetic revival which has returned American literature to the world community."

Editorial Reviews

Bly has expressed a devotion to multicultural understanding with numerous anthologies and translations of the world's great visionary poetry. In this collection, he demonstrates his own visionary talent with new poems written in a stylized version of a Middle Eastern lyric form, the ghazal. Adhering to a five-stress accentual line, Bly offers six three-line stanzas in each poem that bring into focus surprising combinations of interlocking images, ranging from the personal to the mythical. The forty-eight poems include instructive meditations on art, history, religion and philosophy. At times whimsical, at other times frightfully serious, but always heartbreakingly vulnerable, the emotional and musical effects of the lines are reminiscent of the Hebrew psalms or Coleman Barks' translations of the Sufi poet Rumi. Bly gives us his radiant, wise poems during this troubled time when patience and wisdom are at a premium.
—Stephen Whited

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
When Iron John: A Book About Men took off in the early '90s, Bly's poetic reputation was instantly eclipsed, though he had long embraced mythic precedents and close examination of masculine feelings in his work. Bly has also worked in collaboration with linguists to translate Islamic religious poetry, and this eighth collection reflects these and other varied and sustained interests. The book's 48 lyrics are written in a single (here terceted) form, the ghazal, used by such great Islamic poets as Ghalib, and harness high points of Western art and literature to draw general, biblically backed conclusions about the human condition out of the mire. The three poems inspired by Rembrandt are probably the best here, simple in diction and understated in effect: "Titus receives a scattering of darkness./ He's baptized by water soaking in onions;/ The father protects his son by washing him in the night." But too many lines veer from the prosaic into the clunky in their quest for universal imagery: "My heart is a calm potato by day, and a weeping,/ Abandoned woman by night," notes the speaker of the title poem. After a series of mentions of animals in "The Wildebeest," a reference to "The Moses of the beaver" is unconsciously comic at best. The cultural references follow one another at a fast and furious pace, and while the initial surprise of finding Chekhov and Blake or Kierkegaard and Cezanne in the same poem can be pleasant, there is little holding them there beyond Bly's will-to-form. No one will doubt Bly's sincerity, but the poems fall short of the heady figures they invoke. (May) Forecast: Despite their flaws, these poems surpass the new work of last year's Eating the Honey of Words: New & Selected Poems. Bly's multitude of fans will recognize their hero's concerns and preoccupations, here more elegiacally than ever, and relish some of the real achievements. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780061979866
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
10/06/2009
Sold by:
HARPERCOLLINS
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
112
Sales rank:
866,676
File size:
0 MB

Read an Excerpt

The Night Abraham Called
to the Stars

Do you remember the night Abraham first called
To the stars? He cried to Saturn: "You are my Lord!"
How happy he was! When he saw the Dawn Star,

He cried, "You are my Lord!" How destroyed he was
When he watched them set. Friends, he is like us:
We take as our Lord the stars that go down.

We are faithful companions to the unfaithful stars.
We are diggers, like badgers; we love to feel
The dirt flying out from behind our hind claws.

And no one can convince us that mud is not
Beautiful. It is our badger soul that thinks so.
We are ready to spend the rest of our life

Walking with muddy shoes in the wet fields.
We resemble exiles in the kingdom of the serpent.
We stand in the onion fields looking up at the night.

My heart is a calm potato by day, and a weeping,
Abandoned woman by night. Friend, tell me what to do,
Since I am a man in love with the setting stars.

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