Undismayed, he continued his workshops for years with a more down-to-earth focus. He gave up the drums, but still used myths and poetry and invited women and men to discuss an array of topics, including parenting and racism.
And he continued to write rivers of poetry, to edit magazines and to translate works from Swedish, Norwegian, German and Spanish, and to churn out jeremiads. In “The Sibling Society” (1996), Mr. Bly called for mentoring a generation of children growing up without fathers, who were being shaped instead by rock music, violent movies, television and computers into what he called a state of perpetual adolescence.
But he saw hope.
“The biggest influence we’ve had,” he told The Times in 1996, “is in younger men who are determined to be better fathers than their own fathers were.”
Robert Elwood Bly was born in Lac qui Parle County in western Minnesota on Dec. 23, 1926, to Norwegian farmers, Jacob and Alice (Aws) Bly. He graduated from high school in Madison, Minn., (pop. 600) in 1944, served two years in the Navy and studied for a year at St. Olaf College, in Northfield, Minn. He then transferred to Harvard.
“One day while studying a Yeats poem I decided to write poetry the rest of my life,” he recalled in a 1984 essay for The Times. “I recognized that a single short poem has room for history, music, psychology, religious thought, mood, occult speculation, character and events of one’s own life.”
After graduation in 1950, he spent several years in New York immersing himself in poetry.
In 1955, he married Carol McLean, a writer. They had four children, Bridget, Mary, Micah and Noah, and were divorced in 1979. In 1980, he married Ruth Ray, a Jungian therapist. In addition to her, Mr. Bly is survived by his children; a stepdaughter, Wesley Dutta; and nine grandchildren. A stepson, Samuel Ray, died in 1984.
Mr. Bly earned a master’s degree at the Writers’ Workshop at the University of Iowa in 1956, then returned to Madison. On a fellowship, he lived in Norway in 1956-57. In 1958, he founded a poetry magazine, The Fifties, which survived to become The Sixties, The Seventies and The Eighties. It published works by Federico García Lorca, Pablo Neruda and many others.