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August 31st, 2014 - we have 234 poets, 8,025 poems and 278,918 comments.
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


Page ViewsPoemComments
12225 The Curse Comments and analysis of The Curse by John Berryman 69 Comments
9176 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
7705 Sonnet 117 - All we were going strong
7360 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
7018 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 48 Comments
7009 Winter Landscape Comments and analysis of Winter Landscape by John Berryman 1 Comment
5910 Dream Song 13: God bless Henry
5752 Dream Song 77: Seedy Henry rose up shy
5516 Dream Song 34: My mother has your shotgun. One man, wide
5384 Dream Song 2: Big Buttons, Cornets: the advance
5371 The Traveller
5213 Dream Song 28: Snow Line
5133 Dream Song 76: Henry's Confession Comments and analysis of Dream Song 76: Henry's Confession by John Berryman 1 Comment
5061 Dream Song 11: His mother goes. The mother comes & goes.
4885 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 30 Comments
4825 Dream Song 8: The weather was fine. They took away his teeth
4636 Dream Song 40: I'm scared a lonely. Never see my son
4605 Dream Song 39: Goodbye, sir, & fare well. You're in the clear
4571 Sonnet 96
4509 Dream Song 16: Henry's pelt was put on sundry walls
4479 Dream Song 20: The Secret of the Wisdom
4437 Dream Song 172: Your face broods Comments and analysis of Dream Song 172: Your face broods by John Berryman 2 Comments
4352 Sonnet 104 - A spot of poontang on a five-foot piece
4322 Dream Song 51: Our wounds to time, from all the other times
4219 Dream Song 36: The high ones die, die. They die
4169 Sonnet 115 - All we were going strong last night this time
4025 Dream Song 324: An Elegy for W.C.W., the lovely man
3962 Dream Song 63: Bats have no bankers and they do not drink
3900 Dream Song 265: I don't know one damned butterfly from another
3895 Dream Song 74: Henry hates the world. What the world to Henry
3750 Dream Song 131: Come touch me baby in his waking dream
3673 Dream Song 35: MLA
3549 Dream Song 112: My framework is broken, I am coming to an end
3521 Dream Song 69: Love her he doesn't but the thought he puts
3388 Dream Song 26: The glories of the world struck me
3362 Dream Song 46: I am, outside. Incredible
3359 Dream Song 67: I don't operate often. When I do
3308 Dream Song 19: Here, whence
3289 Dream Song 7: 'The Prisoner of Shark Island' with Paul Muni
3283 Dream Song 38: The Russian grin bellows his condolence
3237 Dream Song 53: He lay in the middle of the world, and twicht
3225 Dream Song 6: A Capital at Wells
3204 Dream Song 10: 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
3200 Dream Song 105: As a kid I believed in democracy: I
3195 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 6 Comments
3177 Dream Song 18: A Strut for Roethke
3173 Dream Song 48: He yelled at me in Greek
3136 Dream Song 49: Blind Comments and analysis of Dream Song 49: Blind by John Berryman 2 Comments
3131 Dream Song 23: The Lay of Ike Comments and analysis of Dream Song 23: The Lay of Ike by John Berryman 1 Comment
3125 Dream Song 132: A Small Dream
3085 Dream Song 56: Hell is empty. O that has come to pass
3039 Dream Song 117: Disturbed, when Henry's love returned with a hubby
3032 Dream Song 224: Lonely in his great age
2976 Dream Song 70: 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
2968 Dream Song 52: Silent Song Comments and analysis of Dream Song 52: Silent Song by John Berryman 1 Comment
2961 Dream Song 44: 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
2950 Dream Song 12: Sabbath
2931 Dream Song 58: Industrious, affable, having brain on fire
2926 Dream Song 127: Again, his friend's death made the man sit still
2880 Dream Song 100: How this woman came by the courage
2873 Dream Song 21: Some good people, daring & subtle voices Comments and analysis of Dream Song 21: Some good people, daring & subtle voices by John Berryman 1 Comment
2847 Dream Song 61: Full moon. Our Narragansett gales subside
2834 Dream Song 43: 'Oyez, oyez!' The Man Who Did Not Deliver
2750 Dream Song 54: 'NO VISITORS' I thumb the roller to
2747 Dream Song 50: In a motion of night they massed nearer my post
2744 Dream Song 71: Spellbound held subtle Henry all his four
2731 Dream Song 118: He wondered: Do I love? all this applause
2724 Dream Song 15: Let us suppose, valleys & such ago
2693 Dream Song 82: Op. posth. no. 5 Comments and analysis of Dream Song 82: Op. posth. no. 5 by John Berryman 1 Comment
2679 Dream Song 78: Op. posth. no. 1
2664 Dream Song 9: Deprived of his enemy, shrugged to a standstill
2643 Dream Song 89: Op. posth. no. 12
2622 Dream Song 30: Collating bones: I would have liked to do
2608 Dream Song 101: A shallow lake, with many waterbirds
2591 Dream Song 130: When I saw my friend covered with blood, I thought
2583 Dream Song 104: Welcome, grinned Henry, welcome, fifty-one!
2571 Dream Song 27: The greens of the Ganges delta foliate
2558 Dream Song 176: All that hair flashing over
2546 Dream Song 171: Go, ill-sped book, and whisper to her or
2516 Dream Song 41: If we sang in the wood (and Death is a German expert)
2508 Dream Song 17: Muttered Henry:—Lord of matter, thus
2478 Dream Song 62: 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
2456 Dream Song 64: Supreme my holdings, greater yet my need
2426 Dream Song 42: O journeyer, deaf in the mould, insane
2386 Dream Song 99: Temples
2276 Dream Song 60: Afters eight years, be less dan eight percent
2266 Dream Song 111: I miss him. When I get back to camp
2261 Dream Song 59: Henry's Meditation in the Kremlin
2243 Dream Song 87: Op. posth. no. 10
2241 Dream Song 65: A freaking ankle crabbed his blissful trips
2216 Dream Song 66: 'All virtues enter into this world:')
2194 Dream Song 68: I heard, could be, a Hey there from the wing
2125 Dream Song 98: I met a junior--not so junior--and
2105 Dream Song 32: And where, friend Quo, lay you hiding
2095 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
2056 Dream Song 106: 28 July Comments and analysis of Dream Song 106: 28 July by John Berryman 1 Comment
2045 Dream Song 91: Op. posth. no. 14 Comments and analysis of Dream Song 91: Op. posth. no. 14 by John Berryman 3 Comments
2045 Dream Song 135: I heard said 'Cats that walk by their wild lone'
2029 Dream Song 33: An apple arc'd toward Kleitos; whose great King
2024 Dream Song 90: Op. posth. no. 13
1997 Dream Song 124: Behold I bring you tidings of great joy
1991 Dream Song 125: 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
1988 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
1985 Dream Song 79: Op. posth. no. 2
1967 Dream Song 31: Henry Hankovitch, con guĂ­tar
1960 Dream Song 37: Three around the Old Gentleman
1953 Dream Song 72: The Elder Presences
1933 Dream Song 92: Room 231: the fourth week
1927 Dream Song 133: 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
1904 Dream Song 109: She mentioned 'worthless' & he took it in
1870 Dream Song 121: Grief is fatiguing. He is out of it
1847 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 2 Comments
1843 Dream Song 107: Three 'coons come at his garbage. He be cross
1815 Dream Song 57: In a state of chortle sin--once he reflected
1786 Dream Song 126: A Thurn Comments and analysis of Dream Song 126: A Thurn by John Berryman 2 Comments
1782 Dream Song 97: Henry of Donnybrook bred like a pig
1762 Dream Song 119: Fresh-shaven, past months & a picture in New York
1750 Dream Song 114: Henry in trouble whirped out lonely whines
1735 Dream Song 96: Under the table, no. That last was stunning
1710 Dream Song 115: 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
1697 Dream Song 123: Daples my floor the eastern sun, my house faces north
1672 Dream Song 110: It was the blue & plain ones. I forget all that
1661 Dream Song 95: The surly cop looked out at me in sleep
1647 Dream Song 83: Op. posth. no. 6
1643 Dream Song 80: Op. posth. no. 3
1634 Dream Song 116: Through the forest, followed, Henry made his silky way
1620 Dream Song 129: Thin as a sheet his mother came to him
1618 Dream Song 94: Ill lay he long, upon this last return
1601 Dream Song 88: Op. posth. no. 11 Comments and analysis of Dream Song 88: Op. posth. no. 11 by John Berryman 1 Comment
1560 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 2 Comments
1557 Dream Song 84: Op. posth. no. 7
1484 Dream Song 85: Op. posth. no. 8 Comments and analysis of Dream Song 85: Op. posth. no. 8 by John Berryman 1 Comment
1442 Dream Song 81: Op. posth. no. 4
1439 Dream Song 86: Op. posth. no. 9
1127 The Ball Poem Comments and analysis of The Ball Poem by John Berryman 306 Comments
1127 The Ball Poem
1080 Dream Song 22: Of 1826
746 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 48 Comments
716 Dream Song 1: Huffy Henry hid the day
581 Dream Song 5: Henry sats in de bar & was odd
522 Dream Song 14: Life, friends, is boring
294 Dream Song 75: Turning it over, considering
265 Dream Song 25: Henry, edged, decidedly, made up stories Comments and analysis of Dream Song 25: Henry, edged, decidedly, made up stories by John Berryman 1 Comment
256 Dream Song 73: Karensui, Ryoan-ji
225 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 3 Comments
219 Dream Song 24: Oh servant Henry lectured till Comments and analysis of Dream Song 24: Oh servant Henry lectured till by John Berryman 16 Comments
202 Dream Song 93: General Fatigue stalked in, & a Major-General
192 Dream Song 113: or Amy Vladeck or Riva Freifeld
164 Dream Song 108: Sixteen below. Our care like stranded hulls
140 Dream Song 122: He published his girl's bottom in staid pages
1 Dream Song 120: Foes I sniff, when I have less to shout


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