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John Berryman quotes (showing 1-30 of 43)

“You should always be trying to write a poem you are unable to write, a poem you lack the technique, the language, the courage to achieve. Otherwise you're merely imitating yourself, going nowhere, because that's always easiest.”
John Berryman
“I am so wise I had my mouth sewn shut.”
John Berryman
“Life, friends, is boring. We must not say so.
After all, the sky flashes, the great sea yearns,
we ourselves flash and yearn”
John Berryman, The Dream Songs: Poems
“We must travel in the direction of our fear.”
John Berryman
“We have reason to be afraid. This is a terrible place.”
John Berryman
“Them lady poets must not marry, pal.”
John Berryman, The Dream Songs: Poems
“These Songs are not meant to be understood, you understand.
They are only meant to terrify & comfort.”
John Berryman, The Dream Songs: Poems
“The artist is extremely lucky who is presented with the worst possible ordeal which will not actually kill him. At that point, he's in business.”
John Berryman
“I conclude now I have no
inner resources, because I am heavy bored.
Peoples bore me,
literature bores me, especially great literature, ”
John Berryman, The Dream Songs: Poems
“I do strongly feel that among the greatest pieces of luck for high achievement is ordeal. Certain great artists can make out without it, Titian and others, but mostly you need ordeal. My idea is this: the artist is extremely lucky who is presented with the worst possible ordeal which will not actually kill him. At that point, he's in business: Beethoven's deafness, Goya's deafness, Milton's blindness, that kind of thing.”
John Berryman
“I cry. Evil dissolves, and love, like foam;
that love. Prattle of children powers me home,
my heart claps like the swan’s
under a frenzy of who love me and who shine.”
John Berryman
“There is no such thing as Freedom (though it is the most important condition of human life, after Humility, -which does not exist either). There is only Slavery (walls around one) and absence-of-Slavery (ability to walk in any direction, or to remain still).”
John Berryman, Recovery
“ Two daiquiris
withdrew into a corner of a gorgeous room
and one told the other a lie.”
John Berryman, The Dream Songs: Poems
“That is our ‘pointed task. Love & die.”
John Berryman
“something has been said for sobriety but very little.”
John Berryman
“Life, friends, is boring. We must not say so.
After all, the sky flashes, the great sea yearns,
we ourselves flash and yearn,
and moreover my mother told me as a boy
(repeatingly) "Ever to confess you're bored
means you have no
Inner Resources." I conclude now I have no
inner resources, because I am heavy bored.
Peoples bore me,
literature bores me, especially great literature,
Henry bores me, with his plights & gripes
as bad as Achilles,
who loves people and valiant art, which bores me.
And the tranquil hills, & gin, look like a drag
and somehow a dog
has taken itself & its tail considerably away
into the mountains or sea or sky, leaving
behind: me, wag.”
John Berryman, 77 Dream Songs
“Them lady poets must not marry, pal . . . It is a true error to marry with poets / or to be by them.”
John Berryman, The Dream Songs: Poems
“Listen, for poets are feigned to lie, and I
For you a liar am a thousand times . . . .”
John Berryman, The Dream Songs: Poems
“Soon part of me will explore the deep and dark
Floor of the harbour . . I am everywhere,
I suffer and move, my mind and my heart move
With all that move me, under the water”
John Berryman, The Dream Songs: Poems
“…Henry is tired of winter,
& haircuts, & a squeamish comfy ruin-prone proud national
mind, & Spring (in the city so called)
Henry likes Fall.
Hé would be prepared to líve in a world of Fáll
for ever, impenitent Henry.
But the snows and summers grieve and dream;

These fierce & airy occupations, and love,
Raved away so many of Henry’s years…”
John Berryman, 77 Dream Songs
“However things hurt, men hurt worse.”
John Berryman, 77 Dream Songs
“I have a tiny little secret hope that, after a decent period of silence and prose, I will find myself in some almost impossible life situation and will respond to this with outcries of rage, rage and love, such as the world has never heard before. Like Yeats's great outburst at the end of his life. This comes out of a feeling that endowment is a very small part of achievement. I would rate it about fifteen or twenty percent, Then you have historical luck, personal luck, health, things like that, then you have hard work, sweat. And you have ambition. The incredible difference between the achievement of A and the achievement of B is that B wanted it, so he made all kinds of sacrifices. A could have had it, but he didn’t give a damn.[...]

But what I was going on to say is that I do strongly feel that among the greatest pieces of luck for high achievement is ordeal. Certain great artists can make out without it, Titian and others, but mostly you need ordeal. My idea is this: the artist is extremely lucky who is presented with the worst possible ordeal which will not actually kill him. At that point, he's in business. Beethoven's deafness, Goya's deafness, Milton's blindness, that kind of thing. And I think that what happens in my poetic work in the future will probably largely depend not on my sitting calmly on my ass as I think, "Hmm, hmm, a long poem again? Hmm," but on being knocked in the face, and thrown flat, and given cancer, and all kinds of other things short of senile dementia. At that point, I'm out, but short of that, I don't know. I hope to be nearly crucified,”
John Berryman
“Life, friends, is boring. We must not say so. After all, the sky flashes, the great sea yearns, we ourselves flash and yearn, and moreover my mother told me as a boy (repeatedly) 'Ever to confess you're bored means you have no inner Resources.' I conclude now I have no inner resources, because I am heavy bored.”
John Berryman
“The splendour & the lose grew all the same, Sire.”
John Berryman, The Dream Songs: Poems
“The Prayer of the Middle-Aged Man

Amid the doctors in the Temple at twelve, between mother & host at Cana implored too soon, in the middle of disciples, the midst of the mob, between High-Priest and Procurator, among the occupiers,
between the malefactors, and 'stetit in medio, et dixit, pax vobis' and 'ascensit ad mediam Personarum et caelorum,' dear my Lord,mercy a sinner nailed dead-centre too, pray not to late,-
for also Ezra stood between the seven & the six, restoring the new Law.”
John Berryman, Delusions, Etc.
“The worse anyone feels, the worse treated he is. Fools elect fools.”
John Berryman
“Is stuffed, de world, wif feeding girls.”
John Berryman, The Dream Songs: Poems
tags: poems
“The marker slants, flowerless, day’s almost done,
I stand above my father’s grave with rage,
often, often before
I’ve made this awful pilgrimage to one
who cannot visit me, who tore his page
out: I come back for more,

I spit upon this dreadful banker’s grave
who shot his heart out in a Florida dawn
O ho alas alas
When will indifference come, I moan & rave
I’d like to scrabble till I got right down
away down under the grass

and ax the casket open ha to see
just how he’s taking it, which he sought so hard
we’ll tear apart
the mouldering grave clothes ha then Henry
will heft the ax once more, his final card,
and fell it on the start.”
John Berryman
“What is the boy now, who has lost his ball,
What, what is he to do? I saw it go
Merrily bouncing, down the street, and then
Merrily over-there it is in the water!”
John Berryman
“He knows: he went over everyone, & nobody's missing. Often he reckons, in the dawn, them up. Nobody is ever missing.”
John Berryman

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