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The Selected Letters of John Berryman Reviews

The Selected Letters of John Berryman by John Berryman, Philip Coleman, Calista McRae, Martha Mayou

The Selected Letters of John Berryman

John Berryman, Philip Coleman, Calista McRae, Martha Mayou

Score pending

2 reviews

Category: History, Non-fiction, Poetry
Imprint: The Belknap Press
Publisher: Harvard University Press
Publication date: 30 Oct 2020
ISBN: 9780674976252

John Berryman was an energetic correspondent. Assembled here for the first time, his letters tell of generosity, ambition, and struggle. He has encouraging words for fellow poets and younger writers and is deeply engaged in literary culture. But also visible are the struggles of a working artist grappling with alcoholism and depression.

3 stars out of 5
10 Feb 2021

"Landmark work highlights poet’s misogyny but fans and scholars will find riches among letters"

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.”


3 stars out of 5
28 Nov 2020

"for all his losses Berryman displays a capacity for joy"

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.