Daniel J. Berrigan

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Berrigan, Daniel J.

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Berrigan, Daniel J. 1938–

Berrigan, an American, was formerly a Jesuit priest. He is a poet, essayist, and social activist. (See also Contemporary Authors, Vols. 33-36.)

[Love, Love at the End] is a thing of great potency. While it contains very few "poems" as one gets into the habit of defining poems, nearly all of these "parables, prayers and meditations" take structure from imagery….

[While] it is true that both Berrigan and his brother have certainly gone as fervently to the streets as anybody, it seems to me the poet and priest have survived without being corrupted—that the priest has prospered greatly, and the poet has found new spine for his work….

In all, this is a strong book, both religious and worldly—a scarifying vision, even when oblique, of the kind of adventure we have pursued in Southeast Asia.

Robley Wilson, Jr., "Five Poets at Hand," in The Carleton Miscellany, Fall, 1968, pp. 117-20.

Daniel Berrigan, priest and poet, flew to Hanoi to bring three captured American fliers home. [Night Flight to Hanoi] is his journal and, as well, a set of eleven poems based on the experience. It is certainly a promising subject, and Father Berrigan has proven himself in the past to be a poet of some skill. What the book is, however, is a manifestation of the moral hysteria which has swept the minds of so many good men over the past few years. Father Berrigan, motivated by love and moral anguish, condemns the United States for its behavior in an "immoral" war, but then he goes on to exalt Lenin and Ho Chi Minh to the status of modern saints. He condemns the fliers he rescued because they still believed in America after their confinement, because they did not succumb to the Communist teachings of their captors. What began as a book of love ends as a book of hate. Father Berrigan becomes the merci-less accuser of a God of revenge and violence. The book is a frightening document, for in it poet becomes mouthpiece for propaganda and priest becomes prosecutor. It is a flight into a night of moral rage; there is no dawn of new love and understanding at the end of that flight.

Virginia Quarterly Review, Vol. 45, No. 1, Winter, 1969, p. xx.

A considerable part of my purpose in this review [is] to suggest that contemporary poetry in America finds it difficult to make simple, unadulterated statements…. Of all the poets I have been reading, I should have supposed Daniel Berrigan would have been most direct: here, after all, is a man involved in action as very few of us have allowed ourselves to become involved. But action must have another idiom than the one I would have assigned to it; the man acting is something other than what I thought he was, or is reflected in different mirrors. Berrigan's work, which I would have supposed revolutionary and absolute, is instead involute: the mind that can consider the possibility of action is extraordinarily intricate before it starts….

I do not think that this poetry [Encounters] is very public …, rather, it seems the poetry of a public position, what is said by someone who has confused the private and the public roles. I think that such a confusion is easier than it ought to be in our time, and I can hardly fault Berrigan for having allowed it. But I still feel that the nimbus of his language is instructing me without having the direct right to instruct me. The elevation of the language is like and unlike the elevation of the Host; the first elevation assumes that I share a ritual in which, as it happens, I am not a participant.

William Dickey, "Public and Private Poetry," in The Hudson Review (copyright © 1972 by The Hudson Review, Inc.; reprinted by permission), Vol. XXV, No. 2, Summer, 1972, pp. 295-308.

Father Berrigan's major purpose [in America is Hard to Find ] is to defend his anti-government actions and those of his associates. This purpose is inseparable from another purpose, the attack upon America, the decent, healthy heart of which is, for the author, hard to find. It's difficult to find...

(The entire section is 3,214 words.)