Thursday, November 17, 2005

Berryman at Noon

I first read 77 Dream Songs during my visit to the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown. Thomas Sayer Ellis, my workshop instructor, recommended it me. So, I walked down Pearl Street one day and headed to a small bookstore near the town hall. There I bought a used copy of 77 Dream Songs. That night I was introduced to the unforgettable "Henry" and "Mr. Bones." I had never read such butchered syntax before and the lyrical leaps in these sonnet-like poems thrilled me. For the first time ever, I became aware of the possibilities of language and the surprising leaps one can take in one's writing. So, I wanted to share Dream Song 1 from John Berryman's collection. This particular poem is one of my favorites and I can't help but be awed by the complex structure of this piece.

Dream Song 1

Huffy Henry hid the day,
unappeasable Henry sulked.
I see his point,--a trying to put things over.
It was the thought that they thought
they could do it made Henry wicked & away.
But he should have come out and talked.

All the world like a woolen lover
once did seem on Henry's side.
Then came a departure.
Thereafter nothing fell out as it might or ought.
I don't see how Henry, pried
open for all the world to see, survived.

What he has now to say is a long
wonder the world can bear & be.
Once in a sycamore I was glad
all at the top, and I sang.
Hard on the land wears the strong sea
and empty grows every bed.

© John Berryman

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