Readers have found Robert Bly’s ghazals startling and new; they merge wildness with a beautiful formality. The ghazal form is well-known in Islamic culture, but only now finding its way into the literary culture of the West. Each stanza of three lines amounts to a finished poem. “God crouches at night over a single pistachio. / The vastness of the Wind River Range in Wyoming / Has no more grandeur than the waist of a child.”
The ghazal’s compacted energy is astounding. In a period when much American poetry is retreating into prosaic recordings of daily events, these poems do the opposite. My Sentence Was a Thousand Years of Joy is Robert Bly’s second book of ghazals. The poems have become more intricate and personal than they were in The Night Abraham Called to the Stars, and the leaps even more bold. This book includes the already famous poem against the Iraq War, “Call and Answer”: “Tell me why it is we don¹t lift our voices these days / And cry over what is happening.” The poems are intimate and yet reach out toward the world: the paintings of Robert Motherwell, the intensity of Flamenco singers, the sadness of the gnostics, the delight of high spirits and wit.
Robert Bly is writing the best poems of his life, and this book reestablishes his position as one of the greatest poets of our era. After many years of free verse in American poetry, years which have been very fertile, the inventive ghazal helps the imagination to luxuriate in a form once more. We are seeing a poetry emerge that is recovering many of the great intensities that modern art and poetry has aimed at and achieved in earlier generations.
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About the Author
Robert Bly's books of poetry include The Night Abraham Called to the Stars and My Sentence Was a Thousand Years of Joy. His awards include the National Book Award for poetry and two Guggenheims. He lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Read an Excerpt
My Sentence Was a Thousand Years of JoyThe Dark Autumn Nights
Imagination is the door to the raven's house, so we are
Already blessed! The one nail that fell from the shoe
Lit the way for Newton to get home from the Fair.
Last night I heard a thousand holy women
And a thousand holy men apologize at midnight
Because there was too much triumph in their voices.
Those lovers, skinny and badly dressed, hated
By parents, did the work; all through the Middle Ages,
It was the lovers who kept the door open to heaven.
Walking home, we become distracted whenever
We pass apple orchards. We are still eating fruit
Left on the ground the night Adam was born.
St. John of the Cross heard an Arab love poem
Through the bars and began his poem. In Nevada it was
Always the falling horse that discovered the mine.
Robert, you know well how much substance can be
Wasted by lovers, but I say, Blessings on those
Who go home through the dark autumn nights.
What People are Saying About This
“[Robert Bly] brings it all together—integrating erudition, moral concern, introspection and passion.”