John Berryman 1914–1972
American poet, novelist, biographer, and editor.
Berryman was a key figure in the confessional mode of post-modern poetics. His work is characterized by convoluted syntax and interior, theatrical dialogue with imaginary personae through whom Berryman explores personal concerns and torments. The most significant of these concerns appear to be his father's suicide, self-condemnation based on his break with Catholicism, and an ongoing battle with alcohol. Berryman eventually took his own life.
Although opinion varies regarding the quality of his talent and the importance of his achievement, Berryman won many awards, including the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1965 for 77 Dream Songs and the 1969 National Book Award for His Toy, His Dream, His Rest. His ambiguous poetry presents a universally recognized challenge to literary critics and scholars. Dream Songs, a long personal epic consisting of several hundred lyrical poems, is considered his most significant work and continues to be the focus of the criticism written about him.
(See also CLC, Vols. 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 8, 10, 13; Contemporary Authors, Vols. 15-16, Vols. 33-36, rev. ed. [obituary]; and Contemporary Authors Permanent Series, Vol. 1.)