Event to Celebrate Robert Bly and His ‘Collected Poems’; Club Book’s Winter/spring Lineup

By Espeland, Pamela | MinnPost.com, February 7, 2019 | Go to article overview

Event to Celebrate Robert Bly and His ‘Collected Poems’; Club Book’s Winter/spring Lineup


Espeland, Pamela, MinnPost.com


Right now, with snow blanketing our neighborhoods, parks and rooftops, would be a good time to read or reread Robert Bly’s “Silence in the Snowy Fields.” His first poetry collection, it came out in 1962 from Wesleyan Press. It was 66 pages long, softcover and cost two dollars. When you opened it, these were the first lines you read:

Sometimes, riding in a car, in Wisconsin

Or Illinois, you notice those dark telephone poles

One by one lift themselves out of the fence line

And slowly leap on the gray sky –

And past them, the snowy fields.

If you were a poet, or inclined toward poetry, or curious about poetry, or had to read poetry for a class you were taking, maybe you were hooked. Bly’s words, recorded over 60 years in 14 books of poetry (not counting his many books of translations), influenced generations of poets and readers.

Bly’s latest and last book, “Robert Bly: Collected Poems,” was published in December by W.W. Norton. It gathers all 14 of his poetry books on 576 pages between sturdy hard covers. On Monday (Feb. 11), a host of family members, friends, fellow poets and scholars will convene at Plymouth Congregational Church to celebrate the book, read favorite poems and honor Bly, who was born in Minnesota and, except for a few years in the Navy, at Harvard and in New York, has lived here all his life. (Bly was Minnesota’s first poet laureate.)

At 92, Bly doesn’t get out much anymore, so we don’t expect to see him at Plymouth. He gave his final public reading there in 2015, as part of Plymouth’s Literary Witnesses series. Bly’s longtime friend, great supporter and fellow poet Jim Lenfestey ran that series for 15 years. The University of Minnesota held a big Bly conference in 2009 because Lenfestey organized it. The U’s Elmer L. Andersen Library has Bly’s papers because Lenfestey co-chaired the committee that raised the money to acquire them. Lenfestey, who made sure Monday’s event would happen, will be there.

So will a host of others. Bly’s biographer, Mark Gustafson, will open the event, after which a parade of fans and admirers will take the podium. These will include Bly’s editor, Thomas R. Smith; Rain Taxi’s Eric Lorberer (Rain Taxi is co-sponsoring the event); the Loft’s Britt Udesen; poet Freya Manfred and her artist sons, Rowan and Bly Pope; videographer Mike Hazard; William Duffy, co-founder with Bly of the seminal literary magazine The Fifties; singer Prudence Johnson; and poets Mary Moore Easter, Louis Jenkins, Jim Moore, Matt Rasmussen and Cary Waterman.

Zachary Cohen, principal bass for the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, will make music. Birchbark will offer books for sale, and a broadside by fine printer and wood engraver Gaylord Schanilec created for the event will be available for purchase. 7 p.m. FMI. Free.

Here’s Club Book’s winter/spring lineup of authors

A Peabody-winning journalist, a No. 1 New York Times best-selling historian and a Top Chef finalist are among the authors the Metropolitan Library Service Agency (MELSA) will feature in its new Club Book season. Not just in one location, but in eight libraries across the Twin Cities metro. So whether you live in St. Paul or Minneapolis, Chanhassen or Woodbury, you’ll have the chance to see a big-name author nearby– for free. And if you can’t attend in person, you can listen later to the podcast.

March 11 at Wentworth Library in West St. Paul: Peabody winner and New York Times best-selling author Alex Kotlowitz, whose latest exposé, “An American Summer: Love and Death in Chicago,” is due out March 5. March 14 at Roseville Public Library: Emily Bernard, whose “Black Is the Body: Stories From My Grandmother’s Time, My Mother’s Time, and Mine” looks at growing up in the American South as a person of color. March 20 at R.H. Stafford Library in Woodbury: Don Winslow, internationally renowned thriller writer whose new book, “The Border,” concludes an acclaimed trio about the U. …

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