The Night Abraham Called to the Stars Review
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Remember when poetry was “obscure”? Thanks to people like Mary Oliver, Robert Pinsky, Jane Kenyon, just to name a few, poetry has drifted back to the realm of the human. They and many others have reasserted the need for poetry that is direct, honest, human, and (by and large) clear to the average reader.

But every once in a while, I miss the old days. Just when it seemed that poetry was getting a little too humdrum, a little too prosy, Bly’s The Night Abraham Called to the Stars appeared to bring back a little obscurity to poetry, and with it, a huge dose of mystery.

Bly, fresh off his outstanding translations of the Urdu poet Ghalib (The Lightning Should Have Fallen on Ghalib) adapted Ghalib’s poetic ghazel form (pronounced “huzzle”)
and reinvented it for the English-speaking reader. Each of these forty-eight poems contain six three-line stanzas, and the final eight (all of part 5 of Bly’s book) even achieve the unity of rhyme required by the original form. That is, the final word of each stanza is the same.

What is unique about the ghazel is that each stanza strives to be a self-contained, complete poem, not unlike a Korean sijo or a Japanese tanka. But in the ghazel, the cumulative effect of the seemingly unrelated stanzas creates a resonance that is hard to achieve any other way. The “intention” of each stanza may be clear, but that is where the intention ends and the mystery begins. The reader is invited to find creative connections between the stanzas and experience words and ideas in new ways—through their suggestiveness.

This volume is one of the best among Bly’s growing corpus. It intrigues and mystifies, but always satisfies as well. If you wonder what Rumi might sound like in twenty-first century garb, pick up a copy of The Night Abraham Called to the Stars.

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