POETS Day! John Berryman

[This entry is cross posted at ordinary-times.com]

I can’t believe it’s POETS Day already. These interminable workdays with their drudgery and stench of responsibility really seem to be zipping by. It feels like just yesterday I was lamenting that due to the holiday there was no work to get out of or early weekend hours to be seized, but here we are and the world is back to its pre-Thanksgiving normal. It’s Friday and you’re stuck at work with visions of the fun you could be up to if only you could slip the sultry bonds of employment and embrace the ethos of the day: Piss Off Early, Tomorrow’s Saturday. Disassemble, obfuscate, fudge the truth, and gleefully trespass the norms and delicate pieties that preserve our hopefully durable civilization. Nearly all means are justified by the urge to prematurely escape the confines of labor and settle in at a friendly neighborhood joint a few hours before even happy hour begins, lay comfortably in the grass at a local park, go for a swim, or God forbid, go for a light jog. It’s your weekend. Do with it as you will, but in homage to the mighty acronym may I suggest setting aside a moment for a little verse? It’s a particularly good way to pass time waiting on friends who may not run as roughshod over the delicate pieties and were not as successful as you were in engineering an early exit.

This week we feature a poem by John Berryman, or “Burremun” as some of his friends called him (he spent some time in England and came back accented.) He was among those known as the Confessional Poets – a group that included Sylvia Plath, Elizabeth Bishop, and Robert Lowell – for the semi to fully autobiographical feel of many of their works. The poets were not amused by the name at all. In his book The Wounded Surgeon, Adam Kirsch writes that “Plath scorned the notion of poetry as “some kind of therapeutic public purge or excretion,’” and that Bishop “deplored the trend toward ‘more and more anguish and less and less poetry.’” Berryman, he wrote, “insisted that ‘the speaker [of a poem] can never be the actual writer,’ that there is always “an abyss between [the poet’s] person and his persona.’” Oh, well. You don’t get to pick your nickname.

Continue reading