Memoirs of Lothar Zogg

My Packed Pages, or, O Berryman: Not on the Lone Prairie

It's a hubbub wrapped in a dither wrapped in a hurly-burly these days chez Fool, as we are in the throes of multiple concurrent home improvement projects: painting and recarpeting for the first time in 14 years, installation of built-in bookshelving [oh ecstasy!], and more.  One of the principal upshots of it all has been the temporary packing away into boxes of nearly all of the books in the place.  That necessary arrangement has the unpleasant consequence of preventing me from looking up necessary references for incorporation in to posts here.  I am feeling the pinch of it just now, because without being able to look up appropriate quotations, I can add little to the interesting conversation that has been going on among some of the RPPW [Real Poets With Weblogs].  Still, since one of my favorite poets is one of its subjects, I need to call it to your attention.

Via Nick Piombino, Jonathan Mayhew was led to a birthday-related post at ::: wood s lot ::: (you'll need to scroll down to November 10) collecting material on the poet Karl Shapiro, causing him (Prof. Mayhew) to share that he had studied with Shapiro and had received from him (Shapiro) his (Mayhew's) only "B" in college, and to add concerning the generation of poets to which Shapiro belonged:

He was part of that Lowell/Jarrell/Berryman/Schwartz generation. Nobody reads these poets anymore, except for Lowell. Schwartz survives in biographies and novelizations (Atlas, Bellow), and his connection to the New York intellectuals. Jarrell is known for his criticism. Berryman survives in Henry Gould's echoes, almost nowhere else.

(Emphasis added.)

Josh Corey responded that he for one does read, with particular relish, the poetry of John Berryman.  (He says that he hasn't read much Karl Shapiro.  The most readily available edition of Shapiro's poetry is the Selected edition from the American Poets Project [the lyric adjunct to the Library of America], edited and introduced by John Updike.  My own copy of that volume is one of the many books packed away in those boxes mentioned above, so I am unable to add anything more about Karl Shapiro here.)

Henry Gould not only reads Berryman, he objected to an earlier Mayhew remark  ["A schtick is not a poetics"] which was tied in to the minstrel-show allusions that suffuse Berryman's Dream Songs.

All of this draws my attention because Berryman is a particular favorite of mine, as evidenced by this layperson's appreciation that I posted about a year ago.  By happy coincidence, having done its part to put Karl Shapiro back in circulation two years ago, the American Poets Project has also just published a Selected Berryman, suggesting that they expect someone to be reading him.


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