Tuesday, August 30, 2005

A poetic moment - John Berryman

I mentioned John Berryman in class today. He is one of my favorite poets, so I thought I would share one of my favorite sonnets from his DREAM SONGS.

Dream Song 14

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
(repeatingly) "Ever to confess you're bored
means you have no

Inner Resources." I conclude now I have no
inner resources, because I am heavy bored.
Peoples bore me,
literature bores me, especially great literature,
Henry bores me, with his plights & gripes
as bad as Achilles,
who loves people and valiant art, which bores me.
And the tranquil hills, & gin, look like a drag
and somehow a dog
has taken itself & its tail considerably away
into the mountains or sea or sky, leaving
behind: me, wag.

The Dream Songs by John Berryman
1969; New York, NY; Noonday Press

The DREAM SONGS are a complex maze of poems about a man's inner and outer demons, the refraction of his personality into different characters, the reaction of his father's suicide and the depression that grips him. They are part social commentary, often times using references and language that mean little to contemporary readers unfamiliar with the times. But the 300+ sonnets are worth getting through and then reading again.

Tip: to maximize your understanding, learn something about the minstral show tradition and Berryman's personal history. These both play important parts in the telling of Henry's story.


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ABD, Associate Professor of Language Arts & Humanities at an Oklahoma 2-year college; web site designer; devoted aunt to Lauren.