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 later ... more »

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John Berryman Quotations

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  • ''The artist is extremely lucky who is presented with the worst possible ordeal which will not actually kill him. At that point, he's in business.''
    John Berryman (1914-1972), U.S. poet. Interview in Writers at Work, Fourth Series, ed. George Plimpton (1976).
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Comments about John Berryman

  • Michael Walker (7/31/2019 12:32:00 AM)

    His best poem, I think, is 'The Traveller'. The speaker in the poem is hyper-sensitive to what other people think of him. He finds company with the couple who get off the train, so he does too.
    The 'Dream Songs' are not as good at all.

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  • Strange Keith (2/24/2018 12:30:00 PM)

    This guy Berryman makes my itch.

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  • 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

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  • 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?

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  • Aj Pinquot (6/27/2010 7:48:00 PM)

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

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  • Ravi Avasthi (8/30/2009 11:27:00 AM)

    too early to comment, just opened my account

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Best Poem of John Berryman

The Traveller

They pointed me out on the highway, and they said
'That man has a curious way of holding his head.'

They pointed me out on the beach; they said 'That man
Will never become as we are, try as he can.'

They pointed me out at the station, and the guard
Looked at me twice, thrice, thoughtfully & hard.

I took the same train that the others took,
To the same place. Were it not for that look
And those words, we were all of us the same.
I studied merely maps. I tried to name
The effects of motion on the travellers,
I watched the couple I could see, the ...

Read the full of The Traveller