Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Robert Bly's Leaping Poetry: An Idea with Poems and Translations (Pitt Poetry Series)

In brief Bly states that "a poet who is leaping makes a jump from an object soaked in unconscious substance to an object or idea soaked in conscious psychic substance." He argues that ancient poets leaped naturally; however, over the centuries formulas and rules killed the "leap." Now, however, certain poets are reviving the "leap."

Through the presentation of his thesis, Bly uses several rhetorical devices to define his concept. He compares and contrasts. For instance, he points out the difference of the Spanish poets and the French surrealists and finds the Spanish writers more satisfying. He provides examples of Leaping poets: he discusses Blake, Wallace Stevens, Neruda, Vallejo, and Rilke. He illustrates "leaping" through poems that he has translated and he explicates the jumps.

In summary, Robert Bly's "Leaping Poetry" is important for several reasons: (1) he creates an evocative and simple image (leaping) for a concept that poets of a certain ilk have been trying to explain for centuries; (2) he examines and meditates on the concept with plenty of examples from poets like Lorca, Neruda, Rilke, Vallejo; (3) he shows the similarities of leaping poetry to Lorca's concept of duende; (4) he finds a physiological source of leaping by discussing the work of Paul Maclean; and (5) he presents us with some fine translations of poets from around the world.

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