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William Stafford and Robert Bly

A Literary Friendship

presented by Haydn Reiss and Magnolia Films
Review copyright © 1998 by Bert H. Hoff

 

Haydn Reiss and Magnolia Films, William Stafford and Robert Bly: A Literary Friendship (San Anselmo, CA: Magnolia Films, 1994). Order on-line

 




Book cover
William Stafford and Robert Bly: A Literary Friendship
presented by Haydn Reiss
Hear MP3 excerpts from the video
Order on-line


William Stafford
William Stafford


Robert Bly
Robert Bly


Check out this other exciting poetry video from Magnolia Films, Rumi: Poet of the Heart

I just spent another wonderful, delightful afternoon with Robert Bly and William Stafford, and I thank Haydn Reiss for it. He has pout together a wonderful, moving videotape that truly reflects the friendship and kinship of these literary giants and invites us into their exploration of the art and craft of poetry. I'm writing my review of this video tape right now. But don't let me hold you up. Rush out and get it right now. You won't regret it.

MenWeb has MP3 WebCasts of these poets reading their works, and of the delightful exchanges between Bill and Robert that Haydn has so magically captured on this fantastic video. Click here to hear them.

The video tape itself is beautifully crafted, with wonderful music and nature scenery of the ocean and foggy mountains. Robert and William talk about their own roots, how they became aware of each other's work and the influence they have had on each other. The fecundity of their interaction is beautifully captured in the masterful segments where they read each other their poetry. We've put several of these poems from the tape on MenWeb as MP3 WebCasts well worth listening to.

William Stafford describes his parents as "the quiet of the land." They taught him that we're all just people, for example by teaching him German literature in the anti-German pre-World War II era. It's this that led him into being a conscientious objector in World War II. He says it's his mother that has most influenced his poetry, but Bly tells stories that show the influence of his father as well.

There are wonderful segments about the art and craft of poetry, centering around the metaphor of the Golden Thread, from William Blake's poem:

I give you the end of a golden string
Just wind it into a ball.
It will lead you in at Heaven's gate
built in Jerusalem's wall.
The imagery is one that Robert A. Johnson also follows in his memoirs Balancing Heaven and Earth, as I point out in my review of that book. Stafford points out that every thread leads to a poem, not just the good ones--if you don't pull them too hard. To which Robert can only reply, "I hear you." William also talks about his "Un huh" method of teaching, which forces or encourages the student to make his or her own decision about whether a work is good.

There's an amazing segment where Robert and William discover that they had both written poems about a child lost in the woods, at about the same time, each unaware of the other's poem.

As you might well imagine, I give this video tape a "two quills up."

 


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