John Berryman

(25 October 1914 - 7 January 1972 / McAlester, Oklahoma)

John Berryman
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John Allyn Berryman was an American poet and scholar, born in McAlester, Oklahoma. He was a major figure in American poetry in the second half of the 20th century and was considered a key figure in the Confessional school of poetry. His best-known work is The Dream Songs.

Life and Career

John Berryman was born and raised in Oklahoma until the age of 10, when his father, John Smith, a banker, and his mother, Martha, who was a schoolteacher, moved to Tampa, Florida. In 1926, in Florida, when the poet was twelve, his father shot and killed himself just outside his son's bedroom window. Berryman was haunted by his father's suicide for the rest of his life and would ... more »

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  • Life, friends, is boring. We must not say so.
    After all, the sky flashes, the great sea yearns,
    we ourselves flash and yearn,
    and moreover my mother told me as a boy
    John Berryman (1914-1972), U.S. poet. 77 Dream Songs, no. 14 (1964).
  • ''Bats have no bankers and they do not drink
    and cannot be arrested and pay no tax
    and, in general, bats have it made.''
    John Berryman (1914-1972), U.S. poet. 77 Dream Songs, no. 63 (1964).
  • ''"A poet is a man speaking to men":
    But I am then a poet, am I not?—''
    John Berryman (1914-1972), U.S. poet. A Professor's Song (l. 10-11). . . New Oxford Book of American Verse, The. Richard Ellmann, ed. (1976) Oxfor...
  • ''Filling her compact & delicious body
    with chicken paprika, she glanced at me
    John Berryman (1914-1972), U.S. poet. Filling Her Compact (l. 1-3). . . Oxford Book of American Light Verse, The. William Harmon, ed. (1979) Oxfor...
  • ''only the fact of her husband & four other people
    kept me from springing on her''
    John Berryman (1914-1972), U.S. poet. Filling Her Compact (l. 5-7). . . Oxford Book of American Light Verse, The. William Harmon, ed. (1979) Oxfor...
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  • Rookie - 0 Points Christopher Amati (9/4/2014 5:37:00 PM)

    I am reading Dream Songs. I cant really like this poetry. I like Lowell so much, I thought I could eventually like Berryman, but no. Lowell is sculptural, so dramatic and so inventive. Berryman just seems kind of...whiny

  • Rookie - 0 Points Kenneth Belknap (4/1/2011 10:37:00 PM)

    Came here just to find some of the Dream Songs. Are there lots of poets who are unreadable on this sight?

  • Rookie - 0 Points Aj Pinquot (6/27/2010 7:48:00 PM)

    Is there any way to actually, you know, read the effing poems?

  • Rookie - 0 Points Ravi Avasthi (8/30/2009 11:27:00 AM)

    too early to comment, just opened my account

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