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2009 Inductees

August Wilson
Charles M. Schulz
F. Scott Fitzgerald
J.F. Powers
John Berryman *
Laura Ingalls Wilder
Maud Hart Lovelace
Sigurd F. Olson
Sinclair Lewis
Wanda Gág

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Impact & Influence

Biography

Major Works

Scholarly Works

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Impact & Influence

 

Berryman first gained attention as a poet when he published Homage to Mistress Bradstreet, which was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in 1956. In 1964, Berryman published 77 Dream Songs, which cemented his role as an essential American poet and earned him the Pulitzer Prize. According to Poets.org, Dream Songs contained, "wrenched syntax, scrambled diction, extraordinary leaps of language and tone, and a wild mixture of high lyricism and low comedy [that] plumbed the extreme reaches of a human soul and psyche." The sonnet-like poems featured alter egos "Henry" and "Mr. Bones," which led many critics to classify Berryman as a confessional poet. Berryman, however, denied such labels. "Henry is accused of being me, and I am accused of being Henry, and I deny it, and nobody believes me," Berryman told interviewer Peter Stitt in October of 1970 for Berryman's Understanding: Reflections on the Poetry of John Berryman, edited by Harry Thomas.

Berryman earned other accolades including: the Oldham Shakespeare Prize in 1937; the Poet Society of America's Shelley Memorial award in 1948 for The Dispossessed; the American Academy award for poetry in 1950; the National Institute of Arts and Letters Award in 1950; the Levinson Prize in 1950; a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1952 and in 1967; the Academy of American Poets Award in 1967; the National Endowment for the Arts Awards in 1967; the National Book Award for His Toy, His Dream, His Rest in 1969 and the Bollingen Prize in 1969. Berryman was also elected a Fellow of The Academy of American Poets in 1966 and served as a chancellor from 1968 until his death.

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Biography

John Berryman — born John Smith in 1914 — is widely recognized as an innovative and influential literary figure in Minnesota and throughout the country.

Originally from MacAlester, Oklahoma, the future poet moved to New York at age 12 after his father committed suicide and his mother remarried, which changed John's surname. He earned a bachelor's degree at Columbia College and held a fellowship at Cambridge University, later teaching writing at Wayne State University, Harvard, Princeton and the University of Iowa. But as his writing career began to soar, Berryman's life began to deteriorate. Over the years, he battled alcoholism, was hospitalized several times for nerves and exhaustion, checked in and out of rehabilitation hospitals and divorced twice. Berryman came to Minnesota in 1955 to teach at the University of Minnesota and remained here until his death in 1972, when he gave in to his demons and threw himself from the Washington Avenue Bridge.

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Major Works

Poems (1942)
The Dispossessed (1948)
Stephen Crane: A Critical Biography (1950)
Homage to Mistress Bradstreet (1956)
His Thoughts Made Pockets & the Plane Buckt (1958)
The Arts of Reading (1960)
77 Dream Songs (1964)
Berryman's Sonnets (1967)
Short Poems (1967)
His Toy, His Dream, His Rest (1968)
Homage to Mistress Bradstreet and Other Poems (1968)
The Dream Songs (1969)
Love and Fame (1970)
Delusions, Etc. (1972)
Selected Poems (1972)
Recovery (1973, published posthumously)
The Freedom of the Poet (1976, published posthumously)
Henry's Fate and Other Poems (1977, published posthumously)
Collected Poems 1937-1971 (1989, published posthumously)
Berryman's Shakespeare (1999, published posthumously)

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Scholarly Works

Berryman's Understanding : Reflections on the Poetry of John Berryman, edited by Harry Thomas
Dream Song : The Life of John Berryman, Paul Mariani
The Life of John Berryman, John Haffenden

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Audio/Video

Sorry, none available at this time.


 

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At a Glance

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John Berryman

Hometown:

McAlester, Oklahoma

October 25, 1914 -
January 7, 1972

Minnesota Ties:

Lived in Minnesota and taught at the University of Minnesota

Education:

Columbia University (bachelor's degree in English) and studied two years at the University of Cambridge in England

Known for:

Considered one of the founders of confessional poetry