Victoria Frenkel Harris traces the aesthetic journey of poet Robert Bly from his early structured works of mystical imagery and lyrical landscapes to his recent explorations of intimate relationships and male socialization.
Examining the various ways Bly’s prose poems articulate his opposition to the Vietnam War and his recent writings manipulate more formal patterns in detailing the intricacies of human relationships, Harris labels this evolution in form, subject, and imagery the incorporative consciousness, incorporative because it assimilates Jungian psychological categories, international poetic traditions, and a compelling breadth of topics.
Harris relies in part on contemporary feminist theory to throw revealing new light on Bly’s recent works. Though sympathetic to Bly, Harris finds that—in spite of his affirmation of the interaction of psychic, creative, and intellectual energies in both sexes—the poet’s later, erotic poems tend to objectify women in counterproductive ways. Bly’s idealization of woman as a Jungian universal, Harris contends, can blind him toward actual women.
Harris is at her best as she delimits with balance and precision the full complexity of the poet’s work.