This volume brings together all of John Berryman's poetry, except for his epic The Dream Songs, ranging from his earliest unpublished poem (1934) to those written in the last months of his life (1972). John Berryman: Collected Poems 1937-1971 is a definitive edition of one of America's most distinguished poets.
For readers unattuned to what Thornbury here calls ``Berryman's strange and dissonant music,'' this gathering of verse may unlock the poems' inner recesses. In his extensive introductory essay, the editor, who teaches at St. John's University in Minnesota, explores Berryman's poetry of disrupted syntax, of continual deaths and rebirths, of self-deceptions and ultimate self-understanding. He also provides a biographical context for the sonnets, satires and confessionals, taking into account the poet's peripatetic boyhood, his suppressed rage at his father's suicide, his metamorphoses as Cambridge don, alcoholic philanderer, itinerant professor-poet and suicide at age 57. Berry displayed his febrile inventiveness as early as Sonnets to Chris (1947), a cycle included here that is by turns romantically tender, cynical, manic, elegant and slangy; this edition brings together all of Berryman's published volumes of poetry except for The Dream Songs.