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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]


First LineComments
—Thass a funny title, Mr Bones. Comments and analysis of Dream Song 47: April Fool's Day, or, St Mary of Egypt by John Berryman 3 Comments
28 July Comments and analysis of Dream Song 106: 28 July by John Berryman 1 Comment
A Small Dream
A Thurn Comments and analysis of Dream Song 126: A Thurn by John Berryman 2 Comments
Eighty
or Amy Vladeck or Riva Freifeld
A freaking ankle crabbed his blissful trips,
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 6 Comments
A shallow lake, with many waterbirds,
A spot of poontang on a five-foot piece,
Acacia, burnt myrrh, velvet, pricky stings. Comments and analysis of Dream Song 3: A Stimulant for an Old Beast by John Berryman 4 Comments
Afters eight years, be less dan eight percent,
Again, his friend's death made the man sit still
All that hair flashing over the Atlantic,
All we were going strong last night this time,
All we were going strong last night this time,
An apple arc'd toward Kleitos; whose great King
And where, friend Quo, lay you hiding
As a kid I believed in democracy: I
As he grew famous—ah, but what is fame?— Comments and analysis of Dream Song 133: As he grew famous—ah, but what is fame? by John Berryman 1 Comment
Bards freezing, naked, up to the neck in water, Comments and analysis of Dream Song 125: Bards freezing, naked, up to the neck in water by John Berryman 1 Comment
Bats have no bankers and they do not drink
Behold I bring you tidings of great joy—
Bright-eyed & bushy tailed woke not Henry up. Comments and analysis of Dream Song 52: Silent Song by John Berryman 1 Comment
Cedars and the westward sun. Comments and analysis of The Curse by John Berryman 66 Comments
Collating bones: I would have liked to do.
Come touch me baby in his waking dream
Dapples my floor the eastern sun, my house faces north,
Darkened his eye, his wild smile disappeared,
Deprived of his enemy, shrugged to a standstill
Disengaged, bloody, Henry rose from the shell Comments and analysis of Dream Song 70: Disengaged, bloody, Henry rose from the shell by John Berryman 1 Comment
Disturbed, when Henry's love returned with a hubby,—
Down on the cathedrals, as from the Giralda
During the father's walking—how he look
Filling her compact & delicious body Comments and analysis of Dream Song 4: Filling her compact & delicious body by John Berryman 2 Comments
Flak. An eventful thought came to me, Comments and analysis of Dream Song 85: Op. posth. no. 8 by John Berryman 1 Comment
Foes I sniff, when I have less to shout
Fresh-shaven, past months & a picture in New York
Full moon. Our Narragansett gales subside
General Fatigue stalked in, & a Major-General,
Go, ill-sped book, and whisper to her or
God bless Henry. He lived like a rat,
Goodbye, sir, & fare well. You're in the clear.
Grief is fatiguing. He is out of it,
He does not live here but it is the god.
He lay in the middle of the world, and twicht.
He loom' so cagey he say 'Leema beans'
He published his girl's bottom in staid pages
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 46 Comments
He wondered: Do I love? all this applause,
He yelled at me in Greek,
Hell is empty. O that has come to pass
Henry Hankovitch, con guĂ­tar,
Henry hates the world. What the world to Henry
Henry in Ireland to Bill underground:
Henry in trouble whirped out lonely whines.
Henry is old, old; for Henry remembers
Henry of Donnybrook bred like a pig,
Henry sats in de bar & was odd,
Henry, edged, decidedly, made up stories Comments and analysis of Dream Song 25: Henry, edged, decidedly, made up stories by John Berryman 1 Comment
Henry's pelt was put on sundry walls
Her properties, like her of course & frisky & new: Comments and analysis of Dream Song 115: Her properties, like her of course & frisky & new by John Berryman 1 Comment
Here, whence
Hey, out there!—assistant professors, full,
His malice was a pimple down his good
His mother goes. The mother comes & goes.
How this woman came by the courage, how she got
Huffy Henry hid the day,
I am the little man who smokes & smokes.
I am, outside. Incredible panic rules.
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
I don't know one damned butterfly from another
I don't operate often. When I do,
I heard said 'Cats that walk by their wild lone'
I heard, could be, a Hey there from the wing,
I met a junior—not so junior—and
I miss him. When I get back to camp
I recall a boil, whereupon as I had to sit,
If we sang in the wood (and Death is a German expert)
Ill lay he long, upon this last return,
In a blue series towards his sleepy eyes
In a motion of night they massed nearer my post.
In a state of chortle sin—once he reflected,
In slack times visit I the violent dead Comments and analysis of Dream Song 88: Op. posth. no. 11 by John Berryman 1 Comment
In the night-reaches dreamed he of better graces,
Industrious, affable, having brain on fire,
It was the blue & plain ones. I forget all that.
It was wet & white & swift and where I am
It will seem strange, no more this range on range
It's buried at a distance, on my insistence, buried.
I'm scared a lonely. Never see my son,
Let us suppose, valleys & such ago,
Life, friends, is boring. We must not say so.
Love her he doesn't but the thought he puts
Maskt as honours, insult like behaving Comments and analysis of Dream Song 82: Op. posth. no. 5 by John Berryman 1 Comment
Muttered Henry:—Lord of matter, thus:
My framework is broken, I am coming to an end,
My mother has your shotgun. One man, wide
Noises from underground made gibber some Comments and analysis of Dream Song 91: Op. posth. no. 14 by John Berryman 2 Comments
Nothin very bad happen to me lately. Comments and analysis of Dream Song 76: Henry's Confession by John Berryman 1 Comment
O journeyer, deaf in the mould, insane
Oh servant Henry lectured till Comments and analysis of Dream Song 24: Oh servant Henry lectured till by John Berryman 16 Comments
Old Pussy-cat if he won't eat, he don't Comments and analysis of Dream Song 49: Blind by John Berryman 2 Comments
Our wounds to time, from all the other times,
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 30 Comments
Plop, plop. The lobster toppled in the pot,
Seedy Henry rose up shy in de world
She mentioned 'worthless' & he took it in,
Shh! on a twine hung from disastered trees
Sick at 6 & sick again at 9 Comments and analysis of Dream Song 134: Sick at 6 & sick again at 9 by John Berryman 2 Comments
Sixteen below. Our care like stranded hulls
Some good people, daring & subtle voices Comments and analysis of Dream Song 21: Some good people, daring & subtle voices by John Berryman 1 Comment
Something black somewhere in the vistas of his heart.
Spellbound held subtle Henry all his four
Supreme my holdings, greater yet my need,
Tell it to the forest fire, tell it to the moon, Comments and analysis of Dream Song 44: Tell it to the forest fire, tell it to the moon by John Berryman 1 Comment
That dark brown rabbit, lightness in his ears Comments and analysis of Dream Song 62: That dark brown rabbit, lightness in his ears by John Berryman 1 Comment
The conclusion is growing . . . I feel sure, my lord,
The glories of the world struck me, made me aria, once.
The greens of the Ganges delta foliate.
The high ones die, die. They die. You look up and who's there?
The jane is zoned! no nightspot here, no bar
The Russian grin bellows his condolence
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
The surly cop looked out at me in sleep
The taxi makes the vegetables fly.
The three men coming down the winter hill Comments and analysis of Winter Landscape by John Berryman 1 Comment
The weather was fine. They took away his teeth,
There is an eye, there was a slit.
There sat down, once, a thing on Henry's heart Comments and analysis of Dream Song 29: There sat down, once, a thing by John Berryman 47 Comments
There were strange gatherings. A vote would come Comments and analysis of Dream Song 10: There were strange gatherings. A vote would come by John Berryman 1 Comment
these hearings endlessly, friends, word is had
They pointed me out on the highway, and they said
Thin as a sheet his mother came to him
This is the lay of Ike. Comments and analysis of Dream Song 23: The Lay of Ike by John Berryman 1 Comment
Three 'coons come at his garbage. He be cross,
Through the forest, followed, Henry made his silky way,
Turning it over, considering, like a madman
Under the table, no. That last was stunning,
Welcome, grinned Henry, welcome, fifty-one!
Westward, hit a low note, for a roarer lost
What is the boy now, who has lost his ball, Comments and analysis of The Ball Poem by John Berryman 133 Comments
When I saw my friend covered with blood, I thought
When worst got things, how was you? Steady on?
Whence flew the litter whereon he was laid?
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 2 Comments
Your face broods from my table, Suicide. Comments and analysis of Dream Song 172: Your face broods by John Berryman 2 Comments
'All virtues enter into this world:')
'NO VISITORS' I thumb the roller to
'Oyez, oyez!' The Man Who Did Not Deliver


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