John Berryman

by John Allyn Smith

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Berryman sought to achieve a distinctly American idiomatic style which, nevertheless, maintained the structures of classical verse forms. He moved toward this goal steadily in the years following World War II, and by the early 1950’s he believed that American rather than British poets constituted the last great hope for poetry written in English. The disorder of his personal life inspired the themes of his poems, but it never affected their craftsmanship. Berryman came from a different tradition from that of academic poets such as Eliot or W. H. Auden; he was an irascible maverick from birth to death, a genius who was at once pitiable and admirable.

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