EVEN IRON JOHN HAD TO DIE ONE DAY–
Nov. 22, 2021 – In a 1990 documentary “A Gathering of Men,” Bill Moyers and Bly explored the changing role of men in modern America. In 2009, the University of Minnesota Andersen Library sponsored a four-day symposium on Bly which included readings, workshops and a bus trip back to Madison, where Bly reunited with old friends and toured his old writing studio, which had been moved off the farm to the Lac Qui Parle County Museum, furniture and books intact.
At a ceremony at the museum, Bly’s niece, Julie Ludvigson, recalled seeing Bly on the farm back when he was young, steering the tractor with one hand, holding an open book in the other. “And then when he’d get over the hill, sometimes it’d be a long time before he’d come back,” she said.
Bly published more than 25 collections of his own poetry, and more than a dozen collections of poetry in translation. His translation of Ibsen’s “Peer Gynt” was performed by the Guthrie Theater in 2008, starring Mark Rylance.
In addition to the National Book Award, he has been honored with the 2013 Robert Frost Medal, the Transtromer Poetry Prize in Sweden, and Guggenheim, Rockefeller and National Endowment for the Arts fellowships. He served as Minnesota’s first poet laureate from 2008 to 2011 and won a McKnight Distinguished Artist Award in 2000. In 2015, at the annual conference, the Association of Writers and Writing Programs celebrated his work with discussions by Hoagland and others, topped off by a reading by Bly himself.
In 2012, his daughter Mary, a professor and author, talked to Minnesota Public Radio about Bly’s fading memory.
“My stepmother was talking about watching a video of him … and he said ‘I like that guy!’ And then he said ‘I wish I knew him.’ So it was very hard for my stepmother in that moment. But he’s both recognizing what’s happening — his sense of humor is not gone at all — and acknowledging that life has different phases.”