The Selected Letters of John Berryman

Troy Jollimore at The Washington Post:

“I have a crazy new way of writing poems,” John Berryman wrote to illustrator Ben Shahn in January 1956. He had indeed hit on something crazy and new: an 18-line structure he ended up calling his “Dream Songs.” In these works, thought tends to veer and swerve erratically, syntax is warped and logic suspended, and vocabularies and tones are mixed and recombined with wild abandon. Berryman wrote several hundred of these poems, publishing 385 in two volumes: “77 Dream Songs” in 1964, and “His Toy, His Dream, His Rest” in 1968. The first won the Pulitzer Prize, the second the National Book Award.

One might expect a person to feel contented after such triumphs. Not so for Berryman. “You were right abt the Pulitzer, and I was wrong,” he wrote publisher Robert Giroux in June 1965. “It doesn’t matter a straw.”

more here.