Cover: The Selected Letters of John Berryman, from Harvard University PressCover: The Selected Letters of John Berryman in HARDCOVER

The Selected Letters of John Berryman

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Product Details


$39.95 • £31.95 • €36.00

ISBN 9780674976252

Publication Date: 10/13/2020


736 pages

6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches

Belknap Press


A revealing window into the poet’s mind and work through his own words… It is well worth the serious attention of any literary scholar.Publishers Weekly

This sumptuous selection of John Berryman’s letters affords a welcome conspectus of the great poet’s life and work, from the protracted apprenticeship to the hard-won triumphs of the mature years, and covering even the brilliant but still underrated narrative of Love & Fame. By turns precocious, histrionic, hilarious, self-tormenting, rivalrous, shrewdly critical, abrasive, and abusive—and always ambitious for his poetry—Berryman in these extraordinary letters is shown to be the consummate craftsman and critic, as well as the hero-worshipper, the generous mentor, the fervent lover, and the tender father.—John Haffenden, author of The Life of John Berryman and coeditor of The Letters of T. S. Eliot

‘We asked to be obsessed with writing,’ wrote Robert Lowell in his elegy ‘For John Berryman,’ ‘and we were.’ The dizzying extremes to which that obsession pushed Berryman are on harrowing display in these letters, which oscillate between troughs of alcoholic abjection and peaks of manic creative confidence. Berryman was both a superbly conscientious craftsman and authentically crazed original; the publication of his letters to his gifted circle of friends—a circle that included Saul Bellow, Delmore Schwartz, Randall Jarrell, and Lowell himself—will reconfigure forever our understanding of mid-century American poetry.—Mark Ford, author of This Dialogue of One: Essays on Poets from John Donne to Joan Murray

Pre-fax, pre-email, pre-text, here are hundreds of pages of loving and painful letters, of hopeful and disappointed letters, of joyful and death-haunted letters, of cautious and gossipy letters, of merry and hurt letters, of phallic and fatigued letters, of self-deprecating and vain letters, of admiring and critical letters. John Berryman, this great American poet of imagination, love, intellect, and pain, comes into optimistic, crystalline focus.—Henri Cole

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