Rereading Eileen Simpson’s ‘Poets in Their Youth’

08siegel-thumbStandardLee Siegel at The New York Times:

W. H. Auden said that a great book reads you. Eileen Simpson’s beautiful, recently reissued memoir of her doomed marriage to the poet John Berryman, “Poets in Their Youth” (1982), read me twice, just a few weeks ago and about 30 or so years before that, when I was in my early 20s. I might well have been two different people.

Back when I was green and carefree — to borrow a phrase from Dylan Thomas, who makes several appearances in the book — I was in awe of Simpson’s poets. Berryman numbered among his most intimate friends Delmore Schwartz, Robert Lowell and Randall Jarrell. I was convinced these figures were heroes of modern life.

“What the hell is happiness?” Simpson quotes Berryman saying to her “with a happy laugh” when they had been married just a short time. Then, she writes, he asks “more uneasily, ‘Should a poet seek it?’” I thought that was a question worth pondering.

more here.