Ronald Moran

George S. Lensing and Ronald Moran: On "Counting Small-Boned Bodies"

"Counting Small-Boned Bodies" is a short poem of ten lines and, as its title suggests, plays upon official body counts of dead Vietnamese soldiers. The poem's first line, "Let's count the bodies over again," is followed by three tercets, each of which begins with the same line: "If we could only make the bodies smaller." That condition granted, Bly postulates three successive images: a plain of skulls in the moonlight, the bodies "in front of us on a desk," and a body fit into a finger ring which would be, in the poem's last words, "a keepsake forever." One notes in this that Bly uses imagery not unlike that of the pre-Vietnam poems, especially in the image of the moonlit plain. In fact, that very image functions here ironically as the reader perceives that the romantic setting is occupied by the skulls. Bly's method consequently represents an important modification in the use of the Emotive Imagination. The lyricism that attends the natural world has become an ironic lyricism attending horrible reversals of the natural world. The reader, instead of drifting tranquilly inward and toward his own private world, is thrust outward upon the abuses of the public world. The poem does not end in reconciliation or a sense of moral advance; rather, it concludes upon a note of accusation and a sense of moral retrogression.

From Four Poets and the Emotive Imagination: Robert Bly, James Wright, Louis Simpson, and William Stafford. Copyright © 1976 by Louisiana State University Press.

George S. Lensing and Ronald Moran: On Robert Bly

The landscape of the poems of the second volume shifts from the snowy cornfields of Madison, Minnesota, to the councils of state in Washington, and the lethargic state of peaceful communion with nature is converted to a melancholy and occasionally petulant exposure of an immoral government. The temperate poem becomes baldly topical; irony issues as a more potent weapon. The specific controversy which underlies The Light Around the Body is America's involvement in the Vietnam War, an issue seen in conjunction with the racism and poverty throughout the society.

From Four Poets and the Emotive Imagination: Robert Bly, James Wright, Louis Simpson, and William Stafford. Copyright © 1976 by Louisiana State University Press.

George S. Lensing and Ronald Moran: On Robert Bly

The poems of Silence in the Snowy Fields are very much of a world. They are not posited on moments of urgent circumstance, at least exteriorly. The poet often pictures himself in corn fields or farm houses; the drama of the poem, exteriorly, is nothing more than the approach of darkness or falling asleep or awaking or driving the car from city to city. The force of the poem consequently depends upon the establishment of a sense of intense subjectivity within these contexts of the commonplace.

From Four Poets and the Emotive Imagination: Robert Bly, James Wright, Louis Simpson, and William Stafford. Copyright © 1976 by Louisiana State University Press.