Tag Archives: Delmore Schwartz

John Berryman as seen by Eileen Simpson

Well with social distancing in vogue, John Berryman may not be an entirely inappropriate choice for this, my 1000th post! Lots of my friends are writing Haikus which is very good practice, I think for trying to count syllables. So reading Eileen Simpson’s Poets in their Youth, here is my effort about Berryman at Harvard during the war, an early period in their marriage after a cold winter:-

The late spring drove ice

and snow away.Trees were in

leaf, John returned books.

There is a very useful and interesting review of this book by the London Review of Books by Christopher Reid https://www.lrb.co.uk/the-paper/v04/n22/christopher-reid/john-and-henry

Personally, I find Simpson’s book well written, with engaging descriptions of a wide variety of poets; Delmore Schwartz, R.P.Blackmur and Robert Lowell among others. It shows the struggle of Berryman to deal with his difficult upbringing and offers a vignette of academic life at Boston and Harvard as well as the pressure of life on the dole in New York. Eileen Simpson became a psychotherapist and she shows both considerable insight and sympathy for the young poets she met.

Philip Levine on Lowell and Berryman

 

Here is a sonnet by Berryman and I would be interested in what you make of it;-

Great citadels whereon the gold sun falls
Miss you O Chris sequestered to the West
Which wears you Mayday lily at its breast,
Part and not part, proper to balls and brawls,
Plains, cities, or the yellow shore, not false
Anywhere, free, native and Danishest
Profane and elegant flower,—whom suggest
Frail and not frail, blond rocks and madrigals.

Once in the car (cave of our radical love)
Your darker hair I saw than golden hair,
And where the dashboard lit faintly your least
Enlarged scene, O the midnight bloomed… the East
Less gorgeous, wearing you like a long white glove!