#henrycore

I don’t usually share videos here anymore, but this is…remarkable. Someone took a public reading of Dream Song 14 and synched it with the beat from Eminem’s “Lose Yourself”. It brings out certain qualities in the poem that may not be obvious at a first reading.

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Prevent my need, Someone

I have declaimed a few Berryman sonnets tonight, all from the delightful Sonnets to Chris. Below a particularly nice one, one of my favorites, for obvious reasons, a late one, too, Sonnet 115.

[#115]

As usual I am up before the sun
begins to warm this intolerable place
and I have stared all night into your face
but am not wiser thereby. Everyone
rattles his weakness or his thing undone,
I shake you like a rat. Open disgrace
yawns all before me: have I left a trace,
a spoor? Clouding it over, I look for my gun.

She’s hidden it. I won’t sing on of that.
Whiskey is bracing. Failures are my speed,
I thrive on ends, the dog is at my door
in heat, the neighborhood is male except one cat
and they thresh on my stoop. Prevent my need,
Someone, and come & find me on the floor.

Berryman on Pound

If Browning makes the fastest verse in English, Pound makes the slowest, the most discrete and suave. He once said of a story in Dubliners that it was something better than a story, it was “a vivid waiting,” and the phrase yields much of his own quality. There is restlessness, but the art of the poet places itself, above all, immediately and mysteriously at the service of the passive and the elegiac, the nostalgic. The true ascendancy of this personality over any other is suggested by a singular fact: the degree in which the mantic character is absent from his poetry. He looks ahead indeed, looks ahead eagerly, but he does not feel ahead; he feels back. (…) It is the poetry of a late craftsman; of an expatriate of a failing culture

from John Berryman’s essay “The Poetry of Ezra Pound”, collected in Berryman’s indispensable The Freedom of the Poet.

I wondered ever too what my fate would be

John Berryman: The Search

I wondered ever too what my fate would be,
woman & after-fame become quite unavailable,
or at best unimportant. For a tooth-extraction
gassed once, by a Russian woman in Detroit,

I dreamed a dream to end dreams, even my dreams:
I had died – no problem: but a mighty hand
was after my works, too, feeling here & there,
& finding them, bit by bit.
At last he found the final of all one, & pulled it away, & said ‘There!’

I began the historical study of the Gospel
indebted above all to Guignebert
& Goguel & McNeile
& Bultmann even & later Archbishop Carrington.

The Miracles were a stumbling block;
until I read Karl Heim, trained in natural science;
until I had sufficiently attended to
The Transfiguration & The Ecstasy.

I was weak on the Fourth Gospel. I still am,
in places; I plan to amend that.
Wellisch on Isaac & Oedipus
supplements for me Kierkegaard.

Luther on Galatians (his grand joy)
I laid aside until I was older & wiser.
Bishop Andrewes’ account of the Resurrection-appearances
in 1609 seemed to me, seems to me, it.

I studied Titian’s remarks on The Tribute-Money.
Bishop Westcott’s analysis (it took him 25 years)
of the first eighteen verses of St. John
struck me as of a cunning like Odysseus’.

And other systems, high and primitive,
ancient & surviving, did I not neglect,
sky-gods & trickster-gods, gods impotent,
the malice & force of the dead.

When at twelve Einstein lost belief in God
he said to himself at once (as he put it later)
‘Similarly motivated men, both of the past & of the present,
together with their achieved insights,
waren die unverlierbaren Freunde’ – the unloseable friends.

Art & Entertainment

The differences between entertainment and art have less to do with the audience and the writer’s immediate intention than with his whole fundamental attitude toward doing what he does at all. Inverting the common notion, art for the artist we might oddly regard as a means, entertainment for the entertainer an end. (…) [T]he notion of art is “a self-discipline rather than a self-expression,” as Auden has put it.

from John Berryman’s essay “The Case of Ring Lardner”, collected in The Freedom of the Poet.

To slash me shocked

John Berryman: “I didn’t.”

I didn’t. And I didn’t. Sharp the Spanish blade
to gash my throat after I’d climbed across
the high railing of the bridge
to tilt out, with the knife in my right hand
to slash me knocked or fainting till I’d fall
unable to keep my skull down but fearless

unless my wife wouldn’t let me out of the house
unless the cops noticed me crossing the campus
up to the bridge
& clappt me in for observation, costing my job –
I’d be now in a cell, costing my job –
well, I missed that;

but here’s the terror of tomorrow’s lectures
bad in themselves, the students dropping the course,
and Administration hearing
& offering me either a medical leave of absence
or resignation – Kitticat, they can’t fire me –

This is an untitled poem by John Berryman, written on Jan 5, 1972. This version is from my copy of Henry’s Fate & Other Poems, 1967-1972. In Mariani’s biography (Dream Song: The Life of John Berryman), he also quotes the poem, but in Mariani’s version it says “shocked” instead of “knocked” in line 5