OVERRIDE

Berryman's Sonnets

John Berryman; Edited by Daniel Swift; Introduction by April Bernard

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

A brilliant and fiercely pitched sonnet cycle about love: at once passionate, forbidden, and doomed


John Berryman was an unconventional poet, but he must have surprised even himself when, in his thirties, he found he was suddenly compelled to write sonnets. It was an unusual choice—even an unpopular one—for a poet in a midcentury American literary scene that was less interested in forms. But it was the right choice, for Berryman found himself in a situation that called for the sonnet: after several years of a happy marriage, he had fallen helplessly, hopelessly in love with the young wife of a colleague.
     “Passion sought; passion requited; passion delayed; and, finally, passion utterly thwarted”: this is how the poet April Bernard, in her vivid, intimate introduction, characterizes the sonnet cycle, and it is the cycle that Berryman found himself caught up in. Of course the affair was doomed to end, and end badly. But in the meantime, on the page Berryman performs a spectacular dance of tender, obsessive, impossible love in his “characteristic tonal mixture of bravado and lacerating shame-facedness.” Here is the poet as lover, genius, and also, in Bernard’s words, as nutcase.
     In Berryman’s Sonnets, the poet draws on the models of Petrarch and Sidney to reanimate and reimagine the love-sonnet sequence. Complex, passionate, filled with verbal fireworks and the emotional strains of joy, terror, guilt, and longing, these poems are ripe for rediscovery by contemporary readers.

REVIEWS

Praise for Berryman's Sonnets

“Among the poets [John Berryman] counted as his peers only Lowell has produced as large a body of work which so vividly spoke to its time and continues to reverberate beyond it.” —Robert Shaw, Poetry

Reviews from Goodreads

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

  • John Berryman; Edited by Daniel Swift; Introduction by April Bernard

  • John Berryman (1914–1972) was an American poet and scholar. He won the Pulitzer Prize for 77 Dream Songs in 1965 and the National Book Award and the Bollingen Prize for His Toy, His Dream, His Rest in 1969. April Bernard is a poet, novelist, and essayist. She is the author, most recently, of the collection of poems Romanticism and of a historical novel about Margaret Fuller, Miss Fuller. At Skidmore College she teaches literature and writing, and she is also on the faculty of the Bennington MFA Writing Seminars.

  • John Berryman Copyright Jerry Bauer
  • Daniel Swift © Deborah Copaken Kogan
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Berryman's Sonnets

John Berryman; Edited by Daniel Swift; Introduction by April Bernard

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FROM THE PUBLISHER

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

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