When Berryman talks about writing, he soars, and he talks about writing much of the time. He was a judicious, generous critic; it’s a thrill to see his letter to Donald Justice mentioning Justice’s The Wall. One can imagine what a fine teacher Berryman was, “Never change things because someone suggests it; but if you like I can make various remarks of this kind all thro the book – but only if you like.”
The letters are mostly of interest to the converted: there’s no laying out of the principles of the art. We see Berryman griping, ranting, heartbroken; repetition abounds, of witticisms, of complaints — fascinating to those hooked on his work, but he’s no transcendent corresponder. Nor is there scandal; just one letter, incongruous in its loving isolation, to Chris, the woman who inspired his initially self-suppressed sonnets.