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Iron John

A Book about Men
Paperback Book
Da Capo Press
November, 2015
$22.99 CAD
Banyen's Description: 

Born of serious mudwrestling in the basement of the soul, Iron John is poet Robert Bly’s major prose work. A bestseller in 1991, it helped spawn the “mythopoetic men’s movement.” This generous, beautiful work is now republished with a new introduction that examines what it means to be a man today.

Even though we are highly advanced in matters of atomic physics and computer technology, we are still beginners in the labor of learning how to live. We really don’t know what we are doing.

Gleaned from nearly a decade working with men, Iron John explores the whole area, neglected in most of the developed world, of male initiation. Bly finds in this Brothers Grimm tale a guide to initiation as it was practiced for hundreds of years in Western Europe and extracts from the story a wisdom still needed by men seeking a way into initiated manhood that avoids the harmful extremes of “macho” and “soft” male.

In language both poetic and down-to-earth, combining the grandeur of myth with the practical and often painful lessons of our own histories, Robert Bly has wrestled men’s isolative and numbing tendencies to the ground, and for the benefit of us all, has reminded us of images long forgotten—images of a vigorous masculinity, both protective and emotionally centered.

What do we love well enough to want it defended?.. Each time we ask our warrior’s intuition to smell out shamers, we gain shrewdness. We may lose some “boyish naivete” of course, some “optimism about human nature,” but we are no longer a wounded six-year-old. The wounded child may still need to be nurtured and defended, but the child no longer possesses us...

Protecting the inner house implies replacing some of the copper with iron... Eating nettles suggests accepting the thorns as well as the rose, living in scarcity, doing the unpleasant, and avoiding talk of how things might be better. Talking about reality is a good way to bring in iron...

Warriorship inside, then, amounts to a soul alertness that helps protect a human being from being turned into copper wire, and protects us from shamers, unconscious swordsmen, hostile people, and greedy interior beings...

If a culture does not deal with the warrior energy—take it in consciously, discipline it, honor it—it will turn up outside in the form of street gangs, wife beating, drug violence, brutality to children, and aimless murder.

Among Robert Bly’s many books of poems are The Winged Energy of Delight and The Soul is Here for its Own Joy.


Publisher’s Description: 

In this timeless and deeply learned classic, poet and translator Robert Bly offers nothing less than a new vision of what it means to be a man. Bly's vision is based on his ongoing work with men, as well as on reflections on his own life. He addresses the devastating effects of remote fathers and mourns the disappearance of male initiation rites in our culture. Finding rich meaning in ancient stories and legends, Bly uses the Grimm fairy tale Iron John"-in which a mentor or "Wild Man" guides a young man through eight stages of male growth-to remind us of ways of knowing long forgotten, images of deep and vigorous masculinity centered in feeling and protective of the young. At once down-to-earth and elevated, combining the grandeur of myth with the practical and often painful lessons of our own histories, Iron John is an astonishing work that will continue to guide and inspire men-and women-for years to come. "

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