Robert Bly poet, translator of poetry, anti-war activist, and the most visible guru of the early men’s movement died this week.
In the spirit of Thanksgiving and in the spirit of men seeking to become better human beings, I thank him for his many gifts to sanity and culture and to myself personally. I did not agree with all of his “Iron John” conclusions about manhood or with some of his reactions to the feminist movement, but I am deeply grateful for his many contributions to our awareness.
I returned to my autobiography on hearing of his death, looked up “Robert Bly” in the Index, and found many references to him. My book on the Sacred Masculine was inspired in part by his willingness to question what it means to be male in our culture. When I heard he liked my book, I was pleased.
At my Institute in Culture and Creation Spirituality, at Mundelein College in Chicago, he came each year to read his translations and comment on them–especially the mystical poet Kabir. His fascination with eastern mystics preceded his “men’s work.”
One day he said to me, “visiting other colleges around the country, I actually dream about ICCS.” “Why?” I asked. “Your students here are on a spiritual journey so they understand what I am doing. In most colleges, people are busy giving me grades on my poetry.”
He invited me to be part of leading a grief ritual for Vietnam vets with him, Michael Meade, and Malidoma Some held in San Francisco. Fourteen hundred people showed up and underwent a charged experience of letting go and grieving that culminated with a march to the water where people placed candles on an outside altar. As we did this, a deluge ensued, and I turning to him, his white hair wet and droopy in the pouring rain, we said in unison, “the skies are grieving too.”
Adapted from Matthew Fox, Confessions: The Making of a Post-denominational Priest, pp. 130, 162, 194f. 303f.
See also: Matthew Fox, The Hidden Spirituality of Men: Ten Metaphors for Awakening the Sacred Masculine
To read the transcript of Matthew Fox’s video teaching, click HERE.
Banner Image: Robert Bly at the Poetry Out Loud Minnesota Finals at the Fitzgerald Theater. Photo by Nic McPhee on Wikimedia Commons.
Queries for Contemplation
Were you affected by Bly’s poetry or translations of poets or work in the men’s movement? What did you learn from him?
The Hidden Spirituality of Men: Ten Metaphors to Awaken the Sacred Masculine
To awaken what Fox calls “the sacred masculine,” he unearths ten metaphors, or archetypes, ranging from the Green Man, an ancient pagan symbol of our fundamental relationship with nature, to the Spiritual Warrior….These timeless archetypes can inspire men to pursue their higher calling to connect to their deepest selves and to reinvent the world.
“Every man on this planet should read this book — not to mention every woman who wants to understand the struggles, often unconscious, that shape the men they know.” — Rabbi Michael Lerner, author of The Left Hand of God