Robert Bly's latest book of poems is being presented as a volume of love poetry. It is, and it isn't. The phrase ". . . in Two Worlds," which makes up half the title is a clue that Bly is not only speaking of human relationship but also of an enigmatic, inner realm.
Bly has a history of exploring the feminine that lives within--in men as well as in women. "The peony says that we have been given a gift,/ and it is not the gift of this world./ Behind the leaves of the peony/ there is a world still darker, that feeds many." The dark, nourishing world is the mystery that moves us--the knowledge that nature is alive. In these poems, Bly worships the mystery rather than trying, as many have, to destroy it by forcing it to make rational sense. He suggests that accepting the rhythms of nature amounts to accepting the secret rhythms of our own lives. The message-threads of meaning that run behind the poems, aren't blatantly stated but intuited: "A power neither of us knows has spoken to us."
There's human love here, too, a distinct "you" to whom Bly speaks. But is she really an outer woman? Is she Bly's interior feminine, perhaps? "The night is moist, and nourishing as your mind/ that lets everything around you live./ I saw you carry the plants inside tonight/ over the grass, to save them from the cold." Taken literally, someone has brought plants into the house; taken figuratively, a caring figure protects and tends nature in a way that has ever-deepening spiritual resonances. With the abundance of flat, me-me-me poetry being written today, it's wonderful to read poems that shimmer on more than one level of possibility.