I opened my newspaper today to find that the poet Robert Bly has died.
A few months ago, I wrote a post about what is probably Bly’s most famous prose work, Iron John, and how it has weirdly, in my view, been co-opted by conspiracy-believing Trump supporters.
Bottom line is that I felt that these Trump-worshippers were reading something into Iron John that wasn’t there, and wasn’t intended to be there. In other words, it’s my feeling that they have somehow taken their conclusions about how the world ought to be and fit Iron John into that framework, all the while saying that it was the book that somehow launched them down this path toward undying devotion to Trump.
Turns out, I am right. The obituary published in the Washington Post includes the views of Robert Bly himself on the book’s reception:
“I think the men’s seminars were not threatening to the women’s movement at all,” he insisted, often emphasizing that his purpose was in no way to return to chauvinistic or misogynistic models of the past. “A lot of the critics of Iron John missed the point.”
Apparently, a lot of fans of Iron John missed the point too.
Unfortunately, art and literature do take on lives of their own beyond the control of the artist or author. I’d like to believe that Iron John will not become some kind of bible for this bizarre subculture of American male, but only time will tell.