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
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
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
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.