The title of “Eleven Addresses to the Lord” suggests its basic structure and intent. Eleven short poems, each capable of standing alone but enhanced by association with the others, compose the whole. Each poem is written in quatrains of varying line length; rhyme is often, though not consistently, used.
In the first address, Berryman (there is no perceivable distance between the persona-narrator and the author) praises God as the “Master of beauty” and the fashioner of things exquisitely small and lovely (the snowflake) and grandly inspiring (the earth). These are common ways of looking at God, but soon Berryman’s focus becomes more personal: God has come to his rescue “again and again” over the years. Had he not, the implication is quite clear, the narrator would have destroyed himself as so many of his friends have done. Both the praise of God’s creation and gratitude for his sustaining blessing are traditional poetic gestures. What is less traditional, however, is the open doubt expressed by the poet: “I have no idea whether we live again.”
The first address sets the pattern that the succeeding ten will follow in whole or in part: praise of God and his creation, gratitude for his assistance, and a strain of doubt that is sometimes subtle but elsewhere blatant enough to border on cynicism or sarcasm. Address 2 finds Berryman once again praising God the Creator and especially for his “certain goodness to me.” By the...
(The entire section is 487 words.)