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Many are introspective, confessional, self-incriminating reports, from the edge of madness. The book end on a homecoming: in the last of songs. The Dream Songs is a sequence of poems. To compose these furiously contemporary sequences, Berryman reached back to what is perhaps the oldest source of poetic inspiration; the desire to translate dreams into waking speech. The poems are individually dense with meaning and emotion. Nevertheless, we can devise our own organizing principles and narrative motifs to give some shape to the jumble of the dream-songs.

As in the classical epics the hero Henry must reach the furthest extremes of helplessness, uncontrollable delirium and blank despair, before he can accomplish the rescue of himself.

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This rescue takes place as an inward drama. No external force or figure arrives to rescue Henry from the spiritual pitfall to which grief has led him. In addition to new readings of important aspects of Berryman's development - including his creative and scholarly encounters with Shakespeare, Milton, Wordsworth and W.

Yeats - the book gives fresh accounts of his engagements with contemporaries such as Delmore Schwartz and Randall Jarrell. It also includes essays that explore Berryman's poetic responses to Mozart and his influence on the contemporary Irish poet Paul Muldoon. Making extensive use of unpublished archival sources, personal reflections by friends and former students of the poet are accompanied by meditations on Berryman's importance for writers today by award-winning poets Paula Meehan and Henri Cole. Encompassing a wide range of scholarly perspectives and introducing several emerging voices in the field of Berryman studies, this volume affirms a major poet's significance and points to new directions for critical study and creative engagement with his work.

Help Centre. My Wishlist Sign In Join. Is it a lyric, a short, musical verse? Is it a haiku, an intense, lyrical three-line verse of seventeen syllables?

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Is it confessional? For example, does it examine personal memories and experiences?

John Berryman: Life, Friends, is Boring.

Is the title's meaning obvious? For example, does it mention a single setting and action, such as W.

Does it imply multiple possibilities? For example, Jean Toomer's "Georgia Dusk," which refers to a time of day as well as to dark-skinned people. Is there an obvious antithesis, as with Robert Frost's "Fire and Ice"? Is there historical significance to the title?


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Readers should read through a poem several times, at least once aloud. If it is a long poem, such as Allen Ginsberg's Howl or Hart Crane's The Bridge, readers should concentrate on key passages and look for repetition of specific words, phrases, or verses in the poem. Why is there a repeated reference to the sea in Robinson Jeffers's poetry? If readers note repetition in the poem, they should decide why certain information seems to deserve the repetition.


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Does the poet place significant information or emotion in these places? For example, when reading Marianne Moore's "Poetry," readers may question the negative stance in the opening lines. Does the poet intend to leave a lasting impression by closing with a particular thought? For example, why does Langston Hughes' "Harlem" lead to the word "explode"? Can readers pin down a time frame? What details specify time?

Does the poet name a particular month or season, as with Amy Lowell's "Patterns"? Is there a clear passage of time, as with the decline of the deceased woman in Denise Levertov's "Death in Mexico"? Who is the speaker?

John Berryman

Is the person male or female? Does the speaker talk directly to a second person, as with Adrienne Rich's "Diving into the Wreck"? Is the voice meant to be universal — for example, applicable to either sex at any time or place? Does the name of a character suggest extra meaning, such as Eben Flood an alcoholic in Edwin Arlington Robinson's "Mr.

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Flood's Party" and T. Eliot's prissy protagonist in "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock"? Is the poet deliberately concealing information from the readers, as with the source of depression in Robert Lowell's "Skunk Hour"? Why does the poet leave out significant facts? Are readers supposed to fill in the blanks, for example, the relationship between mother and daughter in Cathy Song's "The White Porch" or the perplexity of a modern tourist in Allen Tate's "Ode to the Union Dead"?

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Does the poem stress cultural details, such as the behavior, dress, or speech habits of a particular group or a historical period or event — for instance, the death of an airline stewardess in James Dickey's "Falling"? Are any sections written in dialect, slang, or foreign words, as with the Deep South patois of Sterling Brown's "Ma Rainey"? Is the poem an obvious fantasy, as is the case with the intense confrontation in Sylvia Plath's "Daddy" and the setting of Rita Dove's "Geometry"?