John Berryman American Literature Analysis
Berryman sought a distinctive poetic voice throughout his career. As a young man, he particularly admired Yeats’s ability to make poetry intensely personal yet mythic. He also admired Frost as a distinctly American and nonacademic poet who believed that what a poem implied was as important as what it literally expressed. Consequently, in the beginning of his career, Berryman was wary of T. S. Eliot’s objective universal themes and characterizations. He also considered Eliot’s use of learned allusions artificial. Neither was Berryman fond of Eliot’s mentor Ezra Pound or “new poets” such as William Carlos Williams. He loved the gaudy imagery and eclecticism of Wallace Stevens.
Berryman would modify such negative positions considerably in the latter half of his career. Even late in his life, he obliquely criticized Williams’s understanding of the function of narrative and history in a typically outspoken interview published in the Harvard Advocate. He also wrote a never-published, scholarly introduction to the poems of Pound, came to love Pound’s Hugh Selwyn Mauberley (1920) and Cantos (1917-1970) as forerunners of his own The Dream Songs, and was himself admired by Pound as a new voice in American poetry.
Berryman’s contacts with Eliot became more amicable over the years as well. His intense dislike for Eliot’s poetry when Berryman was a student at Cambridge was still apparent in 1953, when...
(The entire section is 4645 words.)
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