Cover image for Dream song : the life of John Berryman
Dream song : the life of John Berryman
Mariani, Paul L.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : W. Morrow, [1990]

Physical Description:
xxii, 519 pages, 16 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations ; 25 cm
Personal Subject:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PS3503.E744 Z79 1990 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area
PS3503.E744 Z79 1990 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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"The best single volume on Berryman's life and work". -- Kirkus Reviews

Author Notes

Paul Mariani, biographer of William Carlos Williams and Robert Lowell, and critic holds a Chair in English at Boston College. A former professor of English at the University of Massachusetts, he has lectured widely across the country and lives in Montague, Massachusetts.

Reviews 4

Booklist Review

Closely following the publication of Berryman's Collected Poems: 1937-1971 [BKL O 15 89], Mariani's monumental biography of the poet provides an engaging, sensitive portrait of a man as self-destructive and tragic as he was talented and successful. While Berryman received many honors throughout his career--the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award in poetry, numerous fellowships and grants, etc.--he also spent a large portion of his life in psychoanalysis, was married and divorced several times, and committed suicide just as his father had during the poet's early childhood. Mariani, the author of William Carlos Williams [BKL O 1 81], outlines the intricacies of Berryman's complex life with respect and objectivity. An exemplary study of one of our leading and often misunderstood poets. To be indexed. --Jim Elledge

Publisher's Weekly Review

This is not a critical biography of Berryman, and readers not familiar with the pulsations and contortions of his poetry might wish that it were. Here, however, is the man, by turns kind, arrogant and belligerent; obsessed with poetry, women and his father's early suicide; a compulsive alcoholic with a self-destructive streak that drove him to suicide in 1972 at age 58. Berryman lived at the very heart of the Anglo-American literary world, associating with the likes of Mark Van Doren, E. P. Blackmur, Delmore Schwartz, Robert Lowell, Randall Jarrell, T. S. Eliot, Dylan Thomas and W. H. Auden. He possessed a dynamic if sometimes outrageous presence, and was by all accounts a spellbinding teacher. Although he found his poetic voice late and never quite achieved the resonant Yeatsian simplicity he seems to have been looking for, his poetry earned praise and prizes, particularly his autobiographical epic The Dream Songs. In this hefty, copiously researched book, Mariani, biographer of William Carlos Williams, brings us to a closer understanding of the man behind and within the work. Photos. (Feb.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Clearly, this is another definitive work from the author whose biography of William Carlos Williams was nominated for a National Book Award. From Berryman's myriad letters, journal entries, and marginalia, and accounts from family, students, friends, and contemporaries, a picture of the tortured, self-obsessed, and sometimes kind poet emerges. The biographer refrains from imposing a critical view or value judgment on his subject, and his occasional remarks on the poet's difficult personality are amply supported by psychological evidence. Although it incorporates much of Berryman's writing, Mariani's angle on the poet's development is more personalized. This thorough and highly engaging biography will be welcomed by those who admire Berryman's verse and criticism and by those who wish to better understand his stylized, Modernist approach.-- Jean Keleher, Wally Findlay Galleries Lib., Chicago (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

Mariani's biography of this major postmodern American poet represents a significant advance on John Haffenden's The Life of John Berryman (CH, Feb'83). Mariani's book incorporates the considerable new material on Berryman that has come to light in the past several years, and he thus achieves a rounder, more balanced view of this complex, troubled man. Mariani is far less judgmental in tone than Haffenden, and he creates a climate of empathy by allowing judgments of Berryman's often neurotic behavior to be voiced chiefly by the poet's contemporaries rather than the biographer. Most important, Mariani is far more concerned than Haffenden with Berryman the poet and critic. He does a fine job of interweaving Berryman's personal life with his evolving ideas about poets and poetry, and he vividly places Berryman the writer amidst his artistic and critical contemporaries. Mariani's narrative pace is brisk, his detail is copious, and he has chosen a relatively discrete interpretative profile. Usually this works well, but at crucial moments of Berryman's life one might wish for more guidance. Although the last word on Berryman's turbulent life may not have been spoken, this book significantly sharpens our view of the man and the creator. Strongly recommended for academic libraries at all levels and for public libraries with serious poetry collections. -T. Travisano, Hartwick College