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Biography of John Berryman

John Berryman

John Berryman (1914 - 1972)

John Berryman, famous for The Dream Songs, is a poet who is very non-traditional in his form. He "takes liberties with syntax and style". The Dream Songs involves a syntax which Berryman partially adopted from Shakespeare who was a big influence in his work. Some other major influences in his life were Robert Lowell, Mark Van Doren, and Yeats. In The Dream Songs, Berryman speaks about his own life through a man named Henry. Henry is a middle-aged American who must deal with paternal suicide, drunkenness, and other problems that Berryman himself experienced. He speaks to an unnamed friend about his issues, and his friend sometimes offers advice. There are almost 400 Dream Songs which were originally published in 77 Dream Songs and His Toy, His Dream, His Rest. When they became a big hit, they were published together in The Dream Songs.

John Allyn Smith was born in MacAlester, Oklahoma on Oct. 25, 1914. He lived on the family farm and later moved to Florida in 1926. That same year his father, depressed over business issues and marriage trouble, committed suicide right outside his son's window. This event wounded Berryman for the rest of his life. When the mother married a man named John Berryman, she changed her son's last name to Berryman. Berryman was not quickly accepted into South Kent School in Florida and was constantly teased. One day, after he had just gotten beat up, he attempted to commit suicide by throwing himself onto train tracks as a train was approaching. Boys from his school quickly pulled him off the tracks, and he escaped unharmed. Even though he was not socially adept, he excelled in academics. He became the first boy in South Kent to graduate one year early. Berryman got his undergraduate degree from Columbia College in 1936 where he published poems in their literary magazine. He then attended Cambridge University on fellowship. He taught at Wayne State University, Harvard, Princeton, University of Iowa, and University of Minnesota. He would remain at Minnesota until his death. Berryman married three times. His wives were Eileen Simpson (1942), Ann Levine (1956), and Kathleen Donohue (1960). Berryman died on Jan 7, 1972 when he threw himself off a bridge in Minneapolis onto some frozen rocks in the Mississippi River leaving behind his wife, two young daughters, and his son.

Berryman often wrote about how he felt about his father's death in his poetry. Berryman was also dependent on alcohol for thirty years and was treated several times, drifting in and out of rehabilitation and psychoanalysis. His addiction was another issue that had a large impact in his poetry. Berryman's distinctive way of telling about his life through poetry was loved by many. He won eleven awards: Oldham Shakespeare Prize, Poetry Society of America's Shelley Memorial award (1948), American Academy award for poetry (1950), National Institute of Arts and Letters Award (1950), the Levinson Prize (1950), the Guggenheim Fellowship (1952, 1966), Academy of American Poets, The Pulitzer Prize(1964), National Endowment for the Arts award (1967), National Book Award (1969), and the Bollingen Award (1969).


Biography by: Michelle Luo - Echoes: great poets inspiring young writers


150 Poems written by John Berryman

The poems are by default sorted according to volume, but you can also choose to sort them alphabetically or by page views.

Volume | [Alphabetically] | Page Views | Comments | First Lines


PoemComments
100. Dream Song 100: How this woman came by the courage
101. Dream Song 101: A shallow lake, with many waterbirds
102. Dream Song 102: The sunburnt terraces which swans make home Comments and analysis of Dream Song 102: The sunburnt terraces which swans make home by John Berryman 19 Comments
103. Dream Song 103: I consider a song will be as humming-bird Comments and analysis of Dream Song 103: I consider a song will be as humming-bird by John Berryman 2 Comments
104. Dream Song 104: Welcome, grinned Henry, welcome, fifty-one!
105. Dream Song 105: As a kid I believed in democracy: I
106. Dream Song 106: 28 July
107. Dream Song 107: Three 'coons come at his garbage. He be cross
108. Dream Song 108: Sixteen below. Our care like stranded hulls
109. Dream Song 109: She mentioned 'worthless' & he took it in
10. Dream Song 10: There were strange gatherings. A vote would come
110. Dream Song 110: It was the blue & plain ones. I forget all that
111. Dream Song 111: I miss him. When I get back to camp
112. Dream Song 112: My framework is broken, I am coming to an end
113. Dream Song 113: or Amy Vladeck or Riva Freifeld
114. Dream Song 114: Henry in trouble whirped out lonely whines
115. Dream Song 115: Her properties, like her of course & frisky & new
116. Dream Song 116: Through the forest, followed, Henry made his silky way
117. Dream Song 117: Disturbed, when Henry's love returned with a hubby
118. Dream Song 118: He wondered: Do I love? all this applause
119. Dream Song 119: Fresh-shaven, past months & a picture in New York
11. Dream Song 11: His mother goes. The mother comes & goes.
120. Dream Song 120: Foes I sniff, when I have less to shout
121. Dream Song 121: Grief is fatiguing. He is out of it
122. Dream Song 122: He published his girl's bottom in staid pages
123. Dream Song 123: Daples my floor the eastern sun, my house faces north
124. Dream Song 124: Behold I bring you tidings of great joy
125. Dream Song 125: Bards freezing, naked, up to the neck in water
126. Dream Song 126: A Thurn Comments and analysis of Dream Song 126: A Thurn by John Berryman 1 Comment
127. Dream Song 127: Again, his friend's death made the man sit still
128. Dream Song 128: A hemorrhage of his left ear of Good Friday Comments and analysis of Dream Song 128: A hemorrhage of his left ear of Good Friday by John Berryman 5 Comments
129. Dream Song 129: Thin as a sheet his mother came to him
12. Dream Song 12: Sabbath
130. Dream Song 130: When I saw my friend covered with blood, I thought
131. Dream Song 131: Come touch me baby in his waking dream
132. Dream Song 132: A Small Dream
133. Dream Song 133: As he grew famous—ah, but what is fame?
134. Dream Song 134: Sick at 6 & sick again at 9 Comments and analysis of Dream Song 134: Sick at 6 & sick again at 9 by John Berryman 1 Comment
135. Dream Song 135: I heard said 'Cats that walk by their wild lone'
136. Dream Song 136: While his wife earned the living, Rabbi Henry Comments and analysis of Dream Song 136: While his wife earned the living, Rabbi Henry by John Berryman 1 Comment
13. Dream Song 13: God bless Henry
14. Dream Song 14: Life, friends, is boring
15. Dream Song 15: Let us suppose, valleys & such ago
16. Dream Song 16: Henry's pelt was put on sundry walls
171. Dream Song 171: Go, ill-sped book, and whisper to her or
172. Dream Song 172: Your face broods Comments and analysis of Dream Song 172: Your face broods by John Berryman 2 Comments
176. Dream Song 176: All that hair flashing over
17. Dream Song 17: Muttered Henry:—Lord of matter, thus
18. Dream Song 18: A Strut for Roethke
19. Dream Song 19: Here, whence
1. Dream Song 1: Huffy Henry hid the day
20. Dream Song 20: The Secret of the Wisdom
21. Dream Song 21: Some good people, daring & subtle voices
224. Dream Song 224: Lonely in his great age
22. Dream Song 22: Of 1826
23. Dream Song 23: The Lay of Ike
24. Dream Song 24: Oh servant Henry lectured till Comments and analysis of Dream Song 24: Oh servant Henry lectured till by John Berryman 15 Comments
25. Dream Song 25: Henry, edged, decidedly, made up stories
265. Dream Song 265: I don't know one damned butterfly from another
26. Dream Song 26: The glories of the world struck me
27. Dream Song 27: The greens of the Ganges delta foliate
28. Dream Song 28: Snow Line
29. Dream Song 29: There sat down, once, a thing Comments and analysis of Dream Song 29: There sat down, once, a thing by John Berryman 41 Comments
2. Dream Song 2: Big Buttons, Cornets: the advance
30. Dream Song 30: Collating bones: I would have liked to do
31. Dream Song 31: Henry Hankovitch, con guĂ­tar
324. Dream Song 324: An Elegy for W.C.W., the lovely man
32. Dream Song 32: And where, friend Quo, lay you hiding
33. Dream Song 33: An apple arc'd toward Kleitos; whose great King
34. Dream Song 34: My mother has your shotgun. One man, wide
35. Dream Song 35: MLA
36. Dream Song 36: The high ones die, die. They die
37. Dream Song 37: Three around the Old Gentleman
38. Dream Song 38: The Russian grin bellows his condolence
39. Dream Song 39: Goodbye, sir, & fare well. You're in the clear
3. Dream Song 3: A Stimulant for an Old Beast Comments and analysis of Dream Song 3: A Stimulant for an Old Beast by John Berryman 4 Comments
40. Dream Song 40: I'm scared a lonely. Never see my son
41. Dream Song 41: If we sang in the wood (and Death is a German expert)
42. Dream Song 42: O journeyer, deaf in the mould, insane
43. Dream Song 43: 'Oyez, oyez!' The Man Who Did Not Deliver
44. Dream Song 44: Tell it to the forest fire, tell it to the moon
45. Dream Song 45: He stared at ruin. Ruin stared straight back Comments and analysis of Dream Song 45: He stared at ruin. Ruin stared straight back by John Berryman 43 Comments
46. Dream Song 46: I am, outside. Incredible
47. Dream Song 47: April Fool's Day, or, St Mary of Egypt Comments and analysis of Dream Song 47: April Fool's Day, or, St Mary of Egypt by John Berryman 1 Comment
48. Dream Song 48: He yelled at me in Greek
49. Dream Song 49: Blind Comments and analysis of Dream Song 49: Blind by John Berryman 1 Comment
4. Dream Song 4: Filling her compact & delicious body Comments and analysis of Dream Song 4: Filling her compact & delicious body by John Berryman 2 Comments
50. Dream Song 50: In a motion of night they massed nearer my post
51. Dream Song 51: Our wounds to time, from all the other times
52. Dream Song 52: Silent Song
53. Dream Song 53: He lay in the middle of the world, and twicht
54. Dream Song 54: 'NO VISITORS' I thumb the roller to
55. Dream Song 55: Peter's not friendly. He gives me sideways looks Comments and analysis of Dream Song 55: Peter's not friendly. He gives me sideways looks by John Berryman 26 Comments
56. Dream Song 56: Hell is empty. O that has come to pass
57. Dream Song 57: In a state of chortle sin--once he reflected
58. Dream Song 58: Industrious, affable, having brain on fire
59. Dream Song 59: Henry's Meditation in the Kremlin
5. Dream Song 5: Henry sats in de bar & was odd
60. Dream Song 60: Afters eight years, be less dan eight percent
61. Dream Song 61: Full moon. Our Narragansett gales subside
62. Dream Song 62: That dark brown rabbit, lightness in his ears
63. Dream Song 63: Bats have no bankers and they do not drink
64. Dream Song 64: Supreme my holdings, greater yet my need
65. Dream Song 65: A freaking ankle crabbed his blissful trips
66. Dream Song 66: 'All virtues enter into this world:')
67. Dream Song 67: I don't operate often. When I do
68. Dream Song 68: I heard, could be, a Hey there from the wing
69. Dream Song 69: Love her he doesn't but the thought he puts
6. Dream Song 6: A Capital at Wells
70. Dream Song 70: Disengaged, bloody, Henry rose from the shell
71. Dream Song 71: Spellbound held subtle Henry all his four
72. Dream Song 72: The Elder Presences
73. Dream Song 73: Karensui, Ryoan-ji
74. Dream Song 74: Henry hates the world. What the world to Henry
75. Dream Song 75: Turning it over, considering
76. Dream Song 76: Henry's Confession
77. Dream Song 77: Seedy Henry rose up shy
78. Dream Song 78: Op. posth. no. 1
79. Dream Song 79: Op. posth. no. 2
7. Dream Song 7: 'The Prisoner of Shark Island' with Paul Muni
80. Dream Song 80: Op. posth. no. 3
81. Dream Song 81: Op. posth. no. 4
82. Dream Song 82: Op. posth. no. 5
83. Dream Song 83: Op. posth. no. 6
84. Dream Song 84: Op. posth. no. 7
85. Dream Song 85: Op. posth. no. 8
86. Dream Song 86: Op. posth. no. 9
87. Dream Song 87: Op. posth. no. 10
88. Dream Song 88: Op. posth. no. 11
89. Dream Song 89: Op. posth. no. 12
8. Dream Song 8: The weather was fine. They took away his teeth
90. Dream Song 90: Op. posth. no. 13
91. Dream Song 91: Op. posth. no. 14 Comments and analysis of Dream Song 91: Op. posth. no. 14 by John Berryman 1 Comment
92. Dream Song 92: Room 231: the fourth week
93. Dream Song 93: General Fatigue stalked in, & a Major-General
94. Dream Song 94: Ill lay he long, upon this last return
95. Dream Song 95: The surly cop looked out at me in sleep
96. Dream Song 96: Under the table, no. That last was stunning
97. Dream Song 97: Henry of Donnybrook bred like a pig
98. Dream Song 98: I met a junior--not so junior--and
99. Dream Song 99: Temples
9. Dream Song 9: Deprived of his enemy, shrugged to a standstill
Sonnet 104 - A spot of poontang on a five-foot piece
Sonnet 115 - All we were going strong last night this time
Sonnet 117 - All we were going strong
Sonnet 96
The Ball Poem Comments and analysis of The Ball Poem by John Berryman 98 Comments
The Ball Poem
The Curse Comments and analysis of The Curse by John Berryman 54 Comments
The Traveller
Winter Landscape


Books by John Berryman
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