Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Happy 92nd birthday, John Berryman....

....Of course, he's not here to enjoy the party but those of us who are can celebrate pre-posthumously by brushing up on this great poet's life. Thanks for the tip to the Writer's Almanac who also had this to say about him:
...born John Smith in Oklahoma (1914). He first became celebrated as a Shakespeare scholar. His lectures became famous. More than 200 people would show up for his talks. There were parties for him every week. Other professors would dismiss their students so they could go see Berryman speak.
He had published a few unnoticed collections of poetry when, one summer, he began an affair with a graduate student and fell helplessly in love with her. The first night they kissed, he wrote a sonnet about her, and he began writing sonnets obsessively, one after another, and he wrote more freely than he ever had before, expressing his thoughts and emotions in a kind of stream-of-consciousness style, full of jokes and slang and plays on words.
He didn't publish the sonnets until 20 years later, as Berryman's Sonnets (1967), but they were a breakthrough for him, and the first major poem he wrote after those sonnets was Homage to Mistress Bradstreet (1948), his first big success.

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