Poet Robert Bly stands out even among the celebrated, revolutionary generation of American artists who burst forth in the 1950s; A Thousand Years of Joy charts Bly’s singular path from farmer’s son on a wintry Minnesota farm to radical anti-Vietnam War activist to wild man of the 1990’s men’s movement. The bespectacled, white-haired Bly is every inch the politically and spiritually engaged mystic, seeking each moment’s fervid heart as well as the eternal, intuitive bedrock beneath our cultivated ideologies and “personas.” He was one of the first to translate Pablo Neruda, Rumi and other ecstatic Sufi poets, and his work with Joseph Campbell—exploring the metaphorical, psychological terrain of myth and ritual—led to the unexpected pop culture phenomenon of Iron John. A confounding whirling dervish, Bly’s life embodies the quest for personal honesty and shared truth.
Filmed over four years in five states and two countries, the film features Louise Erdrich, Jeff Gordinier, Donald Hall, Edward Hirsch, Jane Hirshfield, Garrison Keillor, James Lenfestey, Philip Levine, Michael Meade, Mark Rylance, Martin Shaw, Martin Sheen, Gary Snyder, Tracy K. Smith, Gioia Timpanelli, Lewis Hyde, Martin Prechtel, Roger Bonair-Agard, and other luminaries from the world of culture.
Poet Jane Hirshfield says, “Robert Bly, as few other poets have done, has changed the world for all who now share it.” Bly’s prolific output has nourished the American cultural landscape for over half a century and influenced countless generations of writers and thinkers.
Director Haydn Reiss has made a series of documentaries on poets that have aired on PBS, including William Stafford & Robert Bly: A Literary Friendship and the award-winning Rumi: Poet of the Heart. Reiss’ 2009 film, Every War Has Two Losers was a 2011 winner at the Canadian International Film Festival and an official selection of the 2011 United National Film Festival.
“Robert is mercurial, no matter what you think you know about him, he will surprise you again and again,” says Reiss. “Bly’s metamorphosis from Midwestern farm boy to global troubadour, and all the troublemaking and gift-giving in between, is what keeps drawing me back to him as a subject.”