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.

Details

Criticism Overview
Title George S. Lensing and Ronald Moran: On "Counting Small-Boned Bodies" Type of Content Criticism
Criticism Author George S. Lensing, Ronald Moran Criticism Target Robert Bly
Criticism Type Poet Originally Posted 31 May 2015
Publication Status Excerpted Criticism Publication Four Poets and the Emotive Imagination: Robert Bly, James Wright, Louis Simpson and William Stafford
Printer Friendly PDF Version
Contexts No Data Tags No Data

Rate this Content

Item Type Criticism
Average Rating 0/100
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9
  • 10
Total votes: 0
Use the above slider to rate this item. You can only submit one rating per item, and your rating will be factored in to the item's popularity on our listings.

Share via Social Media