Robert Bly, “The Moon”

The Moon (from poetry 180)
Robert Bly

After writing poems all day,
I go off to see the moon in the pines.
Far in the woods I sit down against a pine.
The moon has her porches turned to face the light,
But the deep part of her house is in the darkness.

Comment:

We wonder how the speaker-poet and the moon relate. Several distinctions exist within the poem that may or may not clarify that issue. Day/night, houses of man/moon, light/dark. The woods are the bridge between man and moon; the woods themselves consist of pines. Man has houses, the moon has a house: do we say pines reside in the woods?

“Writing poems all day” suggests that our speaker-poet is the poetic mind itself. The poetic mind works (writes) in the light. Is the light the sun? Perhaps not: what the mind wants to see is the moon in the pines. The pines are reduced to a pine when there is a lack of straining to see, when motion has become rest. “I” disappears from the poem at that point. The moon is spoken of as a house with a resident of this world. She has “porches” which are meant to face the light. She for the most part – in her depth – resides in darkness.

So what does any of this have to do with the poetic mind? The true poet stays a mystery to himself. The philosopher searches for difficult questions which may not be resolvable. The poet is interested less in abstract inquiry and more in the character of how we live, how we think, how we feel. “Character” means the very act of judging is itself tainted. Light depends upon an unresolvable darkness. Where poetic insight occurs is in the move from a totality to an individual to something beyond: pines to pine to light of the moon. The woods are also a light/dark mixture. They bridge man to the heavens through our animal nature. Home is not a construct in that case; the primal oneness is the link we and our higher speech are alien from. But through it, across it, we find what we’re looking for.

4 Comments

  1. Nice.

    I’d only like to add(my little take on this poem) – it also seems to connote something about even after the whole day of writing poetry – the poet – like the moon – has dark wells – that neither -he nor the moon light can penetrate. In that sense i disagree with your conclusion – its not very hopeful of ever filling the dark spots. Illustration happens only pine to pine – limiting the scope.

  2. Very interesting, thank you for sharing this!

    I think you’re correct, that the crux of this piece is about the poet moving out of himself. But perhaps it is necessary for the continued writing of poems on the morrow to go out into the woods tonight, to leave behind looking at the moon from far away in order to simply gaze upon and engage in its natural mystery.

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