Berryman, John bĕr´ēmən [key]
, 1914–72, American poet and critic, b. McAlester, Okla., as John Allyn Smith, Jr., grad. Columbia, 1936. His father committed suicide when he was 12; he took his stepfather's name when his mother subsequently remarried. From 1955 until his death he was on the faculty of the Univ. of Minnesota. Although he had published several volumes of poetry and a highly regarded biography of Stephen Crane
(1950), his literary reputation was not established until the appearance of Homage to Mistress Bradstreet
(1956), a long dialogue in verse between Berryman and the ghost of Anne Bradstreet
. The volumes 77 Dream Songs
(1964; Pulitzer Prize) and His Toy, His Dream, His Rest
(1968) can be considered a two-part novel in verse in which the main character is a middle-aged teacher and lover named Henry, who is the voice of an anguished and trivial age. The Dream Songs
(1969) brings together both books. Berryman committed suicide in 1972. Delusions, Etc.
(1972), a volume of poems, and Recovery
(1973), a novel, were published posthumously; in both the poet examines himself and his life—as it slips away—in intimate and harrowing detail. Berryman's other volumes of poetry include Poems
(1942), The Dispossessed
(1948), Berryman's Sonnets
(1967), and Love and Fame
See selected poems ed. by K. Young (2004); study by J. M. Linebarger (1974).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
See more Encyclopedia articles on: American Literature: Biographies