A wild, masterful Pulitzer Prize-winning cycle of poems that half a century later nonetheless shocks and astounds
John Berryman was hardly unknown when he revealed 77 Dream Songs, however the quantity was, nonetheless, a shock and a revelation. A “spooky” assortment within the phrases of Robert Lowell-“a maddening work of genius.”
As Henri Cole notes in his elegant, perceptive introduction, Berryman had found “a looser fashion that blended excessive and low dictions with an odd syntax.” Berryman had additionally found his most enduring alter ego, a paranoid, passionate, depressed, drunk, irrepressible antihero named Henry or, generally, Mr. Bones: “We contact at sure factors,” Berryman claimed, of Henry, “However I’m an precise human being.”
Henry might not be actual, however he comes alive on the web page. And whereas essentially the most well-known of the Dream Songs begins, “Life, buddies, is boring,” these poems by no means are. Henry lusts: seeing a girl “Filling her compact & scrumptious physique / with rooster páprika” he can barely restrain himself: “solely the actual fact of her husband & 4 different folks / saved me from springing on her.” Henry despairs: “All of the world like a woolen lover / as soon as did appear on Henry’s aspect. / Then got here a departure.” Henry, afraid of his personal violent urges, consoles himself: “No one is ever lacking.”
77 Dream Songs gained the Pulitzer Prize in 1965, however Berryman’s formal and emotional innovations-he cracks the language open, creates a brand new idiom through which to specific everlasting feelings-remain as alive and instant at the moment as ever.