Discussion Topics

(Masterpieces of American Literature)

Walt Whitman begins his great poem “I celebrate myself and sing myself.” John Berryman certainly sings himself. To what extent can he be said to celebrate himself?

What features of Berryman’s poetry seem calculated to overcome the modern reader’s resistance to long poems?

What does Ann Bradstreet represent to Berryman—an alter ego, a fantasy lover, an afflicted fellow poet, a victim of Puritan culture, or some blend of these and/or other possibilities?

The sonnet cycle has been practiced and its conventions explored and exploited for centuries. What distinctive techniques and content does Berryman bring to Berryman’s Sonnets?

Contrast “Huffy Henry” of The Dream Songs and T. S. Eliot’s J. Alfred Prufrock as antiheroes.

In some writers creativity and self-destructiveness seem to be like two sides of a coin. To what extent is this true of Berryman?