On April 16th, 1994, the John Adams Institute hosted an evening with poet Robert Bly. He spoke on his work Iron John: A Book about Men. The evening was moderated by Ton van der Kroon.
Robert Bly has been hailed as one of the key liberators of American poetry. In his creative work, as well as in his provocative reviews and essays, Bly has offered fresh alternatives to accepted literary models. Critical of the apolitical poetry of the 1950s, he fervently denounced the Vietnam war in “The Teeth Mother Naked At Last”. Bly’s work combines political consciousness with personal inwardness. In Iron John: A Book about Men, Bly uses mythology, literature, psychology and anthropology to reconstruct an archetype of masculinity. The frame work is an ancient iniciation story of the Wild Man or Iron John, an old hairy man who functions as a young boy’s mentor. According to Bly, modern man also needs to get in touch with his own ‘wild man’. Since the Industrial Revolution, fathers have been absent and have provided insufficient role models. The identity crisis of the American man was reinforced by the woman’s movement, which demanded sensitivity. Although critics view his work as a regressive flight from reality, Iron John became a New York Times and Washington Post bestseller and is hailed as the starting point of the contemporary men’s movement in the US and abroad.