John Berryman

John Berryman was born John Smith in
    MacAlester, Oklahoma, in 1914.
In 1956, when he was already in his forties, he won widespread recognition and acclaim as a boldly original and innovative poet. 

The psyche that had been plumbed could not bear the strain;  Berryman, who never recovered from the childhood shock of his father's suicide, was prone to emotional instability and heavy drinking throughout his life. Tragically, in 1972, he died by throwing himself off a bridge in Minneapolis.


     Dream Song 29 
     John Berryman

     There sat down, once, a thing on Henry's heart

     so heavy, if he had a hundred years

     & more, & weeping, sleepless, in all them time

     Henry could not make good.

     Starts again always in Henry's ears

     the little cough somewhere, an odour, a chime.

     And there is another thing he has in mind

     like a grave Sienese face a thousand years

     would fail to blur the still profiled reproach of.  Ghastly,

     with open eyes, he attends, blind.

     All the bells say: too late.  This is not for tears;


     But never did Henry, as he thought he did,

     end anyone and hacks her body up

     and hide the pieces, where they may be found.

     He knows: he went over everyone, & nobody's missing.

     Often he reckons, in the dawn, them up.

     Nobody is ever missing.



     Dream Song 77 
     John Berryman

     Seedy Henry rose up shy in de world

     & shaved & swung his barbells, duded Henry up

     and p.a.e'd poor thousands of persons on topics of grand

     moment to Henry, ah to those less & none.

     Wif a book of his in either hand

     he is stript down to move on.

     --Come away, Mr. Bones. 

     --Henry is tired of the winter,

     & haircuts, & a squeamish comfy     ruin-prone proud national

         mind,     & Spring (in the city so called).

     Henry likes Fall.

     He would be prepared to live in a world of Fall

     for ever, impenitent Henry.

     But the snows and summers grieve & dream;

     those fierce & airy occupations, and love,

     raved away so many of Henry's years

     it is a wonder that, with in each hand

     one of his own mad books and all,

     ancient fires for eyes, his head full

     & his heart full, he's making ready to move on.




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