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Men's movement comes to Ashland

ASHLAND — Hailed as the father of the men's movement, Robert Bly will read his work tonight at Ashland High School.

Bly will share the stage with storyteller Danny Dierdorff in a presentation called "The Dragons of Greed and The Woodcutter's Daughter" at 7:30 p.m. in the high school's Mountain Avenue Theater. Tickets are $30 ($25 in advance at Bloomsbury Books in Ashland).

Bly, 77, will read poems from his books "Eating the Honey of Words" and "My Sentence Was a Thousand Years of Joy," which is written in a form called ghazal that has its roots in Persian literature.

The title is based on the idea that "I wasn't put into jail but the other way around," Bly said during an interview from his home in Minnesota.

The author of the popular "Iron John: A Book About Men," Bly holds regular retreats in Minnesota and Alabama where, he says, males of all ages get "words of encouragement from older men" and "go home to have different connections with their fathers and sometimes with their wives."

Bly, who has written against both the Vietnam and Iraq wars, said the men's movement has been based on the reality that "a lot of younger men feel abandoned by older men "¦ who tend to disappear, with loneliness on both sides."

Dierdorff, of Bainbridge Island, Wash., will spin a Norwegian story, "The Lind Wurm," which tells how a happy king and queen in a happy land give birth to a perfect son, but first a little black snake is delivered by the midwife and tossed out the window, never to be seen or discussed again.

The story, Dierdorff said in an interview, is not about the happy couple and their child, but about the snake, which represents that which is judged bad and inappropriate and is pushed outside the village into the forest, where the unknown and unwanted things and creatures dwell.

"We draw a circle around the good animals, who live inside the village wall, while the vermin and weeds are outside," said Dierdorff. "The relevance of the story today is that it's projection. Individuals, like nations, have a shadow side and it's a naïve way to deal with it, to throw it out, rather than investigate and integrate it."

The story reflects the way Americans are now, said Dierdorff, 53. "We can't integrate it, so we target other cultures and have them carry our shadow for us. The problem is that projection is not a long-term fix."

He said the story is a formula about how, in order to move past denied shadow material, individuals and nations must go into the "forest," where the unknown things are and increase their learning about self and world.

The presentation will be filmed as part of a movie being made by Spirit World Films of Ashland, said organizer Steve Scholl.

John Darling is a freelance writer living in Ashland. E-mail him at jdarling@jeffnet.org.

Men's movement comes to Ashland