Skip to main content

Black History Month: Select Books 30% Off

Harvard University Press - home
The Selected Letters of John Berryman

The Selected Letters of John Berryman

John Berryman

Edited by Philip Coleman and Calista McRae

ISBN 9780674976252

Publication date: 10/13/2020

Request exam copy

A wide-ranging, first-of-its-kind selection of Berryman’s correspondence with friends, loved ones, writers, and editors, showcasing the turbulent, fascinating life and mind of one of America’s major poets.

The Selected Letters of John Berryman assembles for the first time the poet’s voluminous correspondence. Beginning with a letter to his parents in 1925 and concluding with a letter sent a few weeks before his death in 1972, Berryman tells his story in his own words.

Included are more than 600 letters to almost 200 people—editors, family members, students, colleagues, and friends. The exchanges reveal the scope of Berryman’s ambitions, as well as the challenges of practicing his art within the confines of the publishing industry and contemporary critical expectations. Correspondence with Ezra Pound, Robert Lowell, Delmore Schwartz, Adrienne Rich, Saul Bellow, and other writers demonstrates Berryman’s sustained involvement in the development of literary culture in the postwar United States. We also see Berryman responding in detail to the work of writers such as Carolyn Kizer and William Meredith and encouraging the next generation—Edward Hoagland, Valerie Trueblood, and others. The letters show Berryman to be an energetic and generous interlocutor, but they also make plain his struggles with personal and familial trauma, at every stage of his career.

An introduction by editors Philip Coleman and Calista McRae explains the careful selection of letters and contextualizes the materials within Berryman’s career. Reinforcing the critical and creative interconnectedness of Berryman’s work and personal life, The Selected Letters confirms his place as one of the most original voices of his generation and opens new horizons for appreciating and interpreting his poems.

Praise

  • Though the outer world of politics and civil strife may occasionally intrude, it proves no match for the smoke-filled rooms inside the poet’s head…Anyone who delights in listening to Berryman, and who can’t help wondering how the singer becomes the songs, will find much to treasure here.

    —Anthony Lane, New Yorker

Authors

  • John Berryman (1914–1972) was one of the leading writers of American postwar poetry. He is best known for The Dream Songs, the two volumes of which won the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award, respectively.
  • Philip Coleman is Associate Professor in the School of English and Fellow of Trinity College Dublin. He is author of John Berryman’s Public Vision.
  • Calista McRae is Assistant Professor of English at the New Jersey Institute of Technology and author of Lyric as Comedy: The Poetics of Abjection in Postwar America.

Book Details

  • 736 pages
  • 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
  • Belknap Press
  • Foreword by Martha B. Mayou

Recommendations