Robert Bly

Robert Bly's poetry has been set to music in John Harbison's song cycle Between Two Worlds. Other American composers who have set Bly's poetry to music include Ben Johnston and Anne LeBaron.

Photo: Robert Bly, photo credit Douglas Rider, Poetry Foundation website

Kyle Ferrill, baritone and Jennifer Snyder, piano, performed "The Flute of Interior Time" (song by John Harbison setting the text of Robert Bly) at SongFest 2006. The YouTube video of that performance, provided in the media player to the right, is made possible through a collaboration between the Hampsong Foundation and SongFest.

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Born in Minnesota, Robert Bly was raised in a community of Norwegian immigrants. He began his studies at St. Olaf College, but transferred to Harvard, thus beginning his association with many important poets of his generation, including John Ashbery and Donald Hall. He graduated in 1950, and after spending a few years in New York City, studied for two years in the University of Iowa Writers Workshop.

Following his studies in Iowa, Bly received a Fulbright award to Norway to translate Norwegian poetry into English. Thus began Bly’s life as an important translator of poetry in American culture. Upon his return to the United States, he began the literary magazine and publishing house The Fifties (which changed its name depending on the decade), especially dedicated to publishing English translations of European and South American poetry.

Bly won the National Book Award in 1967 for his volume The Light around the Body, and he donated the prize money to the organization which he cofounded, American Writers Against the Vietnam War. He has published prolifically as a poet, translator, and writer of essays and criticism. His book Iron John: A Book about Men spent one year on The New York Times Bestseller List.

–Christie Finn
Source: Poetry Foundation Website

Related Information


Eating the Honey of Words: New and Selected Poems

By Robert Bly

Leaping Poetry: An Idea with Poems and Translations

By Robert Bly

Reaching Out to the World: New and Selected Prose Poems

By Robert Bly



Sheet Music

Between Two Worlds

Composer(s): John Harbison

Buy via Schirmer

"The Flute of Interior Time"

Composer(s): John Harbison

Buy via Schirmer

The AIDS Quilt Songbook

Composer(s): John Harbison

Buy via Sheet Music Plus

The Natural World

Composer(s): John Harbison

Buy via Schirmer

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