The Rag and Bone Shop of the Heart: A Poetry Anthology

The Rag and Bone Shop of the Heart: A Poetry Anthology


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780060924201
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 08/04/1993
Series: Harper Perennial
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 560
Sales rank: 665,064
Product dimensions: 5.31(w) x 8.00(h) x 1.26(d)

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

Boys feel wild; they love their tree houses, their wild spots in the woods, they all want to go down to the river, with Huck, away from domesticating aunts. Boys love to see some wildness in their fathers, to see their fathers dancing or carrying on. Some boys are so afraid that they will become domestic that they become savage, not wild.

The marks of wildness are love of nature, especially its silence, a voice box free to say spontaneous things, an exuberance, a love of "the edge," the willingness to admit the "three strange angels" that Lawrence speaks of. Yeats realized searching Roman and Greek texts that even Cicero, considered middle of the road, was much wilder than any of his friends; the wild man is not mad like a criminal or mad like a psychotic, but "Mad as the mist and snow.

How many years ago

Were you and I unlettered lads

Mad as the mist and snow?

This question does not mean that wildness is restricted to childishness, or is dominated by so-called primitive emotions, or amounts to atavism. The wildness of nature is highly sophisticated.

Jung remarked, "It is difficult to say to anybody you should.... become acquainted with your animal, because people think it is a sort of lunatic asylum, they think the animal is jumping over walls and raising hell all over town. Yet the animal ... is pious, it follows the path with great regularity.... Only man is extravagant . . ." (Visions Seminar 1, P. 282).

Thoreau says, "In literature it is only the wild that attracts us." King Lear attracts us, the dervish, the Zen laugher. The civilized eve of man has become dulled, unable to take in the natural wildness of the planet. Blake says, "Theroaring of lions, the howling of wolves, the raging of the stormy sea, and the destructive sword, are portions of eternity, too great for the eve of man."

Each of us wants to get in touch not so much with the harsh rebel, the self-destroying outsider, as with the beauty of what the Sufis call "Joseph," the round-faced troublemaker.

Pharaoh and the whole Egyptian world

collapsed for such a Joseph.

I'd gladly spend years getting word

of him, even third or fourth hand.

One of the great preservers of wildness is the Sufi poet Rumi, who founded the whirling dervishes. When he says wine, he doesn't mean physical wine, but the feeling of ecstasy that unites people after midnight and encourages them to "be thrown into the fire":

Two strong impulses: One

to drink long and deep,

the other,

not to sober up too soon.

One can keep one's job and still be wild; one can remain married and still be wild; one can live in cities and remain wild. What is needed is a soul discipline that Gan, Snyder calls "practice of the wild"-Wendell Berry understands it well. Garcia Lorca practices it by the way he leaps from one image to the next, surefooted as a cat. "What is the knocking?" Lawrence says.

What is the knocking at the door in the night?

It is somebody wants to do us harm.

No, no, it is the three strange angels.

Admit them, admit them.

The practice is a secret that not all understand, but many blues musicians and jazz soloists and lovers understand it. "Whoever's not killed for love is dead meat."



If when my wife is sleeping

and the baby and Kathleen

are sleeping

and the sun is a flame-white disc

in silken mists

above shining trees,-

if I in my north room

dance naked, grotesquely

before my mirror

waving my shirt round my head

and singing softly to myself:

"I am lonely, lonely.

I was born to be lonely,

I am best so!"

If I admire my arms, my face,

my shoulders, flanks, buttocks

against the yellow drawn shades,

Who shall say I am not

the happy genius of my household?



Oh strong-ridged and deeply hollowed

nose of mine! what will you not be smelling?

What tactless asses we are, you and I boney nose

always indiscriminate, always unashamed,

and now it is the souring flowers of the bedraggled

poplars: a festering pulp on the wet earth

beneath them. With what deep thirst

we quicken our desires

to that rank odor of a passing springtime!

Can you not be decent? Can you not reserve your ardors

for something less unlovely? What girl will care

for us, do you think, if we continue in these ways?

Must you taste everything? Must you know everything?

Must you have a part in everything?



Crow Indian

1. Act like a crazy dog. Wear sashes & other fine clothes, carry a rattle, & dance along the roads singing crazy dog songs after everybody else has gone to bed.

2. Talk crosswise: say the opposite of what you mean & make others say the opposite of what they mean in return.

3. Fight like a fool by rushing up to an enemy & offering to be killed. Dig a hole near an enemy, & when the enemy surrounds it, leap out at them & drive them back.

4. Paint yourself white, mount a white horse, cover its eyes & make it down a steep & rocky bank, until both of you are crushed.

Jerome Rothenberg


1Where is a foot worthy to walk a garden,

or any eye that deserves to took at trees?

Show me a man willing to be

thrown in the fire.

2In the shambles of love, they kill only the best,

none of the weak or deformed.

Don't run away from this dying.

Whoever's not killed for love is dead meat.

3Tonight with wine being poured

and instruments singing among themselves,

one thing is forbidden,

one thing: Sleep.

4Two strong impulses: One

to drink long and deep,

the other,

not to sober up too soon.


translated by Coleman Barks and John Moyne

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