Drawing on the proceedings of two conferences organized to celebrate the centenary of John Berryman’s birth in 2014, John Berryman: Centenary Essays provides new perspectives on a major US American poet’s work by critics from Ireland, the United Kingdom, Canada and the United States. In addition to new readings of important aspects of Berryman’s development – including his creative and scholarly encounters with Shakespeare, Milton, Wordsworth and W. B. Yeats – the book gives fresh accounts of his engagements with contemporaries such as Delmore Schwartz and Randall Jarrell. It also includes essays that explore Berryman’s poetic responses to Mozart and his influence on the contemporary Irish poet Paul Muldoon. Making extensive use of unpublished archival sources, personal reflections by friends and former students of the poet are accompanied by meditations on Berryman’s importance for writers today by award-winning poets Paula Meehan and Henri Cole. Encompassing a wide range of scholarly perspectives and introducing several emerging voices in the field of Berryman studies, this volume affirms a major poet’s significance and points to new directions for critical study and creative engagement with his work.
Foreword: ‘Berrymancy’ (Paula Meehan)
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Editors’ Note: The following text was delivered at the opening of the John Berryman Centenary Symposium at the Irish Centre for Poetry Studies, the Mater Dei Institute, Dublin City University, Dublin, 10 October 2014.
When Philip Coleman approached me with news of this conference and an invitation to contribute here now at the opening of this conference, and also generously invited me to contribute to his anthology of responses in poetry to Berryman, Berryman’s Fate, a beautiful wee book, I had a long poem of my own, a poem of many parts in process, still in process if stalled in progress, so I felt the fickle finger of fate pointed back to Berryman. Do not look the gift horse in the mouth whatever they say in Ilium. I do not have the critical distance of a trained academic. My formation has been as a craftswoman and dreamer. Poems move through my body and I experience them on the pulses. Usually I’d sooner dance a poem than discuss it.
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