I love to be in the company of poets and people who like poems. Even if it’s just on YouTube. I recently came across a video of Robert Bly discussing his own poems and those he had translated. If you’ve not yet discovered him, Robert Bly is a brilliant poet and a famous translator of many Sufi poets such as Hafiz and Rumi.
I think people who translate poems are pretty wonderful. It’s not the words in a poem that make it beautiful, you see, it is the way they are put together and the essence communicated in that assembly. The translator has to convey the essence, even if that means straying from the facts of language or using a modern turn of phrase as Bly often does. I love it. I think it gives it flavour and makes the poems more available to a modern crowd.
I enjoyed this Interview with Bly and find great comfort in the enthusiasm we both share for the poetry of Rumi and Hafiz.I have included a link to the video bellow, along with a commentary of some of my favourite parts of the interview with extracts.
If while listening, you hear something that makes your hair stand on end, please leave a comment in the comments section of this page with the time:00 and the quote and I can include it in this commentary.
Lovely parts of the interview with Robert Bly
3.40: Speaking of the great American Poet Walt Whitman. “When he begins calling out his beautiful list of people that he loves and things that he loves, the divine always comes into it in some way. So you just feel he is pretending to write about human beings. Maybe he’s some sort of messenger”
4.48: Speaking of the third place, aside from the body or the soul…’ It’s a place where all of the geniuses and lovely people and the brilliant women in the—- they all go there. And they watch over us a little bit. Once in a while they’ll say, “Drop that line. It’s no good.” “Sometimes when you do poetry, especially if you translate people like Hafez and Rumi, you go almost immediately to this third world.”
5.30: Robert talks about the benefits of using your life to look for the guest, and speaks about the way the poet Kabir uses the word guest with a capital G. The poem he quotes, reminds me of the poem by Rilke, ‘Sometimes A Man Stands Up During Dinner’
6.57: Discussion about how wonderful muslim literature and poetry can be.
7.28 Robert refers to the way great poets have encouraged us to come away from our obsessions and sit down.
“The foods turned out by the factories of time and space are not all that great. Bring some wine because the good things of this world are not all that great.”
“In the five days remaining to you in this rest stop before you to go to the grave, take it easy, give yourself time, because time is not all that great.”
“The distance between the cloister and the tavern we love is not all that great.”
You see how he is withdrawing all our obsessions? I’ve gotta get this done. I don’t have much time left. So, he’s a tremendous spiritual poet.
8.37 Bly thinks Rumi is a genius.
“There must be someone, just to find one sign of the other world in this town would be helpful.”
“Sit where you are. It’s a good place.” Reads Bly, going onto quote Rumis poem:
“When you want dessert, you choose something rich. When you choose wine, you look for what’s clear and firm. What is the rest?” (The rest is television, suggests Bly) .
“What is the rest? The rest is mirages and blurry pictures and milk mixed with water. The rest is self-hatred and mocking other people and bombing. So, just be quiet and sit down. The reason is you’re drunk. And this is the edge of the roof.”
It’s a good poem, even for the world political sphere right now.
10.30: Bly speaks about the poems he wrote against the Vietnam and Iraq war. Yet, poetry didn’t stop the war, did it?
Admittedly, no poems have never been able to stop the war, Bly concedes. ‘It’s never been able to do that. It merely speaks to the soul so the soul can remember, so it’s quite proper to have poems against the war’ and to not be disappointed if it doesn’t change.
11.50: Bly reads a little from his own poem, If we don’t lift our voices, we allow others (who are ourselves) to rob the house. ( Wow!!!) (Read the full poem this extract is taken from here, )
Some, Robert suggests, say our life lasts for 7 days and before we know it Sunday night will be upon us. What will we do before then?
13.20 Robert talks about vulnerability and feeling. He suggests that we ( the U.S) have always wanted the life of feeling without the life of suffering… In avoiding suffering we are unable to live in the present.
14.07 Bly talks about how important it is to bring poetry into the heart as well as having it be an intellectual exercise especially with children. In other cultures its not uncommon for children to sing poems at the graves of great poets. He talks of the wonderfulness of loving our poets, of bringing them in and celebrating them.
16:00: Discussion on the greedy soul. The shadow self.
17.35: Bly reads one of his poems and it is amazing. “Think in ways you’ve never thought before. If a phone rings, think of it as carrying a message that’s larger than anything you’ve ever heard, vaster than 100 lines of Yeats…”/
22.00: Robert reads his Poem ‘after a night drinking with a friend’. Also totally amazing.
24.59: Bly talks about what depresses him and describes depression as something that comes up from underneath and grabs you. Beautiful.
25:00: Robert reads a translation of the poet Rilke (translation from German)
“I am circling around the ancient tower” ( the word God made him nervous, so he used the word Tower)
“and I have been circling for a thousand years, and I still don’t know if I am a falcon, or a storm, or a great song.”
A truly magical discussion of Essential poetry by Robert Bly, You can watch it at the link bellow
You can view Roberts Books here http://www.robertbly.com/b_translations.html