What's Real Love Poetry?

(excerpted from the revised and expanded edition of Pronoia Is the Antidote for Paranoia)

Early in his career, the poet Robert Bly rarely wrote love poetry, though he studied the work of others who did.

As he aged, he stopped reading the angst-ridden ruminations of modern poets and sought out the ecstatic love poetry of mystics like Rumi and Kabir and Mirabai.

Increasingly, forgiveness and compassion became central aspects of Bly's emotional repertoire. His rage about his own past romantic disappointments dissipated.

In his mid-40s, he wrote Loving a Woman in Two Worlds, his first collection of love poetry. Critiquing it for The New York Times Book Review, Fred Chappell said it wasn't a real book of love poems, because there wasn't enough hatred and anger in it.

On Bly's behalf, we offer a response to Mr. Chappell: We love you, goddamnit.