A Wrong Turning in American Poetry

'A Wrong Turning in American Poetry' is an essay by United States poet Robert Bly which was first published in Choice 3 in 1963 and collected in American Poetry: Wildness and Domesticity. It has subsequently been anthologized in Twentieth-Century American Poetics. Bly's approach is to hold up for comparison examples by European and South American poets, and also some medieval Arabic poems against contemporary and recent American examples.

Bly criticizes Eliot's idea of the objective correlative: "These men have more trust in the objective, outer world than in the inner world". He contrasts Eliot's supposedly formulaic approach with that of Federico García Lorca. Bly also attacks Pound's conception of poetry as a "repository of wisdom", and quotes Rainer Maria Rilke's Letters to a Young Poet: 'You are looking outward, and that above all you should not do now. There is only one single way. Go into yourself."

Bly provides a list of poets whom he considers to be among the great poets of the century, they are: Pablo Neruda, César Vallejo, Juan Ramón Jiménez, Antonio Machado, and Rilke. He praises the ability of writers such as Stéphane Mallarmé and Lorca to "put together inside a line words that have different natures".

Bly asserts that "the poetry we have now is a poetry without the image" by which he means deep image. He criticizes imagism as merely drawing pictures from the real objective world. "Our poetry has been a poetry essentially without the unconscious". He also attacks the almost journalistic approach that this objectivism leads to: "In this country's poems the facts are put in because they happened, regardless of how much they lame the poem."

Bly also writes against the tendency to abstraction, seeing it as "merely another form of the flight from inwardness".

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