Men Talk - February / March 2016

TCMC Library

Robert Bly: Film Tribute to a Radical

– © 2016 Shepherd Bliss

Poet Robert Bly, now 89 years old, is a radical, by which I mean he returns to the roots. Haydn Reiss has captured him in his new, moving film "Robert Bly: A Thousand Years of Joy."

Watching the film was a trip down my memory's lane, dating back to meeting the National Book Award-winning poet in the sixties. I was in boot camp training at Ft. Riley, Kansas, home of the Army's First Division, the Big Red One. I intended to follow our family tradition, which gave our name to Ft. Bliss, Texas. I was on my way to the American War on Vietnam.

Bly and others in the group Writers Against War, including poet Allen Ginsberg, came to Kansas with their poetic, prophetic message. They initiated my doubts about America's War. Bly spoke from military experience, having served in the Navy during World War II.

I eventually resigned my officer's commission, accepting the consequences, which included alienation from my family. Robert possibly saved my life, and certainly my soul, if I had gone to war those 50 years ago. I have enough of what is described as "Post Traumatic Stress" and "moral injury" from having been raised on military forts.


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