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The Dream Songs

4.2  ·  Rating Details ·  5,365 Ratings  ·  154 Reviews

This edition combines The Dream Songs, awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1965, and His Toy, His Dream, His Rest, which won the National Book Award for Poetry in 1969 and contains all 385 songs. Of The Dream Songs, A. Alvarez wrote in The Observer, "A major achievement. He has written an elegy on his brilliant generation and, in the process, he has also written an el

Paperback, 427 pages
Published April 17th 2007 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (first published 1969)
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Community Reviews

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Apr 11, 2013 Mariel rated it liked it
Recommends it for: the pen & the heart
Recommended to Mariel by: and I know nothing
There sat down, once, a thing on Henry's heart so heavy, if he had a hundred years & more, & weeping, sleepless, in all them time
Henry could not make good.
Starts again always in Henry's ears
the little cough somewhere, an odour, a chime.

And there is another thing he has in mind
like a grave Sienese face a thousand years
would fail to blur the still profiled reproach of. Ghastly,
with open eyes, he attends, blind.
All the bells say: too late. This is not for tears;

But never did Harry
Jan 14, 2008 AK rated it it was amazing
mid-way through i wrote:

i am deep into The Dream Songs, John Berryman's book of 385 poems published in 1969, such that i found myself wondering last night whether i can continue to relate to people who haven't read them. this particular effect wore off about an hour after i put the book down, but that's how powerful they are, taken many at a time. the depth of expression and range of emotion is really unlike anything i've ever encountered; he has me grinning wryly one moment and broken hearted t
Jul 24, 2012 Matt rated it really liked it

I've been pecking, then rummaging, then gobbling, then feasting, then gagging, then lilting over these poems for the past month or so.

I appreciate it when more erudite people than myself admit that they might easily tag a poetry book with the triumphal term "read" when- alas! world enough and tome!- they haven't actually, literally, sat down and read all of it, as one reads novels or short stories.

Very few poets can really claim this, at least in my reading life, ironically it's rarer than you
Oct 12, 2008 John rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: damaged poetic hearts who trust no simple repair-work
Recommended to John by: a teacher, probably
Here it is Columbus Day weekend, & again I'm setting out in the too-small boats of my brains & sensibility across the turbulence of these DREAM SONGS. Here be monsters. Berryman's singed-earth spiral down to eventual suicide was fueled not so much by his love of alcohol, not nearly, as by his unrelenting alertness to human idiocy, most especially the poet's. He lived & wrote in a midnight which no amount of gin could keep at bay. Nor did it help that the man's attempts to tame his te ...more
Apr 30, 2007 Sam rated it liked it
Recommends it for: the undersensitive
Shelves: poetry
I was often confused and frustrated by this book. Berryman was by all accounts a vicious drunk and an entirely unlikable person, and these poems seem to reflect that; there's not much here to make you fall sunny in love with the text in front of you. Still, there are these snatches every two pages or so that keep you reading, and there are some parts that are really lovely. The first part, written in almost entirely free verse, seems more successful than the second, which has a strict meter. The ...more
Jim Collins
Aug 07, 2009 Jim Collins rated it it was amazing
The aging Professor Berryman was at the top of his career. He lived with a beautiful young woman, he was well respected in the literary community and on the job at the University of Minnesota, and was regarded as one of the era's more -- ahem -- original poets. But if you read "Dream Songs" it might not be too much of a surprise to you that he jumped off Minneapolis's Washington Avenue Bridge to his death in 1972. His poetry --occasionally hilarious, often spooky, always original -- betrays the ...more
Jul 17, 2007 Meghan rated it it was amazing
John Berryman's sweeping anti-epic joins Eliot's "The Wasteland" and Tennyson's "In Memoriam" as one of the greatest poetic series ever crafted. Berryman's influences are as panoramic as the scope of his avatar Henry's transgressions. He draws from Freudian theory and Daddy Rice's Minstrel Shows, from Apocrypha to his father's suicide, from Relativity Theory to the untimely deaths of his fellow poets. Berryman's writing is painful and visceral, ethereal and transcendent, fantasy and disturbingly ...more
Mar 02, 2014 Vderevlean rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poezie
O antologie scurtă, din păcate. Însă bilingvă, destul de rar pe la noi, pentru că majoritatea traducătorilor nu au curajul să pună originalul pe pagina din stânga. E important că a apărut un volum de Berryman la noi şi Henry devine personaj de largă audienţă şi nu doar unul la mesele poeţilor. Ici, colo, aş fi modificat traducerea.
Mike Lindgren
Feb 17, 2013 Mike Lindgren rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
My relationship with John Berryman’s Dream Songs, like the songs themselves, is murky, complicated, obscure in origin, and not easy to explain—not even to myself. One signpost of great art, it seems to me, is that the meaning of its greatness shifts in relation to the reader over time, and my appreciation of The Dream Songs has deepened and evolved—as I expect it will continue to for the rest of my life—in the two decades since it first came to my attention.

In my twenties I knew that Berryman wa
Apr 28, 2012 Anne rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
I have had this book on my shelf for nearly six years. People always link Berryman to Plath, Sexton, and Lowell, so I kept continually thinking I should read this book, as I love those writers. However, every time I opened it, I felt lost in a dark, tangled woods. I just could NOT understand these poems! I would give up, put it back.

Now, with a Master's in poetry under my belt, I said to myself, I am going to conquer these poems!! I must!!

It's not easy. I grappled with them for about a hundred
Austin Allen
May 08, 2011 Austin Allen rated it it was amazing
My view of the Dream Songs is the same as just about everyone's: a few are brilliant, many are very good, the rest are daring but failed experiments. The songs in the second collection (His Toy, His Dream, His Rest) are both more numerous and less successful than those in the first, but I don't agree with the high-handed critical line (see Donald Hall & co.) that they shouldn't have been written at all. They remain more playful and passionate than the poetry of earlier Berryman phases, and t ...more
Joe Hunt
May 28, 2011 Joe Hunt rated it did not like it
I had to read these in Poetry School.

Almost everything else there I liked--but not these. I just didn't get it.

Pretty hard to read. Just not very fun.

(I know they're not meant for fun. Still...)

Somehow, nothing to pull you in. Just kind of grating, off-putting.

Also...You ever read "Cat's Cradle" ?

How they say "No damned cat. No damned cradle."

I thought that here.

Where's the dreams? Where's the song?

(And I've even heard some good explanations, too--about this stuff.)

That Dreamsongs from some anci
Mar 26, 2014 Thomas rated it it was amazing
I had not read John Berryman for many years. But since it is his centennial year, I thought I would revisit these dark poems. I had forgotten how intense they were. In his earlier work "Homage to Mistress Bradstreet," he has Bradstreet say to her husband, if you don't want to feel my pain, you should neglect me. I think the same goes for these poems. If you don't want to feel the despair of Berryman's dark world, you should leave them alone.
Oct 09, 2014 Mike rated it it was ok
I liked sad comical Henry as a kid, but find it all too personal, too inward, too confessional, too boring now.
Aug 22, 2016 Tristan rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry
The Dream Songs was an unusual and shifting work. Unfortunately, part of the shifting is that it varies in quality fairly substantially throughout the book. I found most of the Songs to be somewhat lackluster, although there were a few that I particularly enjoyed, especially Songs 14, 22, 23, and 207 (these were not the only ones I liked, but they were my favorites). The Songs tell the story of Henry, a man who is similar to, but not the same as, Berryman himself, and Henry narrates the bulk of ...more
Aug 22, 2015 Brian rated it liked it
I sought this poetry out after reading Eileen Simpson's excellent memoire, Poets In Their Youth (one of Simpson's hopes for her book was to get us to do just that). I only made it through the first 83 of the combined 385 Dream Songs; I will return to the rest after a break. Berryman uses several voices in these poems, and messes with traditional grammar and vocabulary in the name of language play to uncover new potential for communicating hard-to-get-at emotions and ideas. I needed a break becau ...more
Nov 08, 2012 Kristin rated it it was ok
There are 385 poems in this edition, which includes work previously published in both "77 Dream Songs" and "His Toy, His Dream, His Rest". Berryman won both the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award for these books. To be honest, this book of poems seems to me TOO monstrous and dense and while there are many notable lines contained within all of the songs, I would not read this again (as I frequently do with other poetry books).

If you want to get just a taste of Berryman, I recommend the f
Amanda Giffi
Sep 26, 2011 Amanda Giffi rated it it was amazing
Mr. Berryman is one of my favorite poets. His language is subtle and his control is impeccable. What appeals most to me is how bizarre it is. Berryman has created three distinct voices: the speaker (mostly autobiographical), Henry, and Mr. Bones. The songs themselves muse on topic such as lust, boredom, beauty, etc. The poems can be hard to get into individually, however, read Dream Song No. 4 aloud and then tell me you don't want to read more. It probably won't happen.
Mar 12, 2007 Jay rated it it was amazing
Lyrical but stark style. I categorically dislike confessional poetry for the most part, but Berryman is an exception; the heavy suicide themes in particular are really well-done, and arresting considering his biography. A stellar crack at the "novel in verse" form, something that I've always been skeptical about. I feel like Henry most days, really.
Richard Epstein
Jan 02, 2014 Richard Epstein rated it really liked it
There is nothing else like it in American lit. That isn't always a recommendation. This time it is.

“These Songs are not meant to be understood, you understand.
They are only meant to terrify & comfort.”
James Murphy
Jul 30, 2015 James Murphy rated it it was amazing
I don't know how many times I've read this. Several. Every once in a while I have to visit. And now 5 years later rereading it again. Somebody I read recently said they have to reread works occasionally to see what's occurred between herself and the works themselves.
Sep 07, 2011 Dirk rated it did not like it
Dumb, unmusical maundering stuff. Self-centered without being self-illuminating, esoteric without being cultivated. Gave up half way through
Rob the Obscure
Apr 12, 2012 Rob the Obscure rated it it was amazing
This collection of poetry, for anyone who knows modern poetry, needs no review. Suffice it to say, that he was one of the most original poets of the 20th century. It shouldn't be missed.
Jun 21, 2016 Pat rated it it was amazing
Especially great literature.
Ryder Collins
Apr 07, 2012 Ryder Collins rated it it was amazing
fuck yeah, berryman. fuck yeah.
Jun 13, 2016 Laurie rated it it was ok
I think this kind of poetry has a "sell-by" date and that it long ago spoiled ... at least for me.
Tony Paese
Dec 07, 2016 Tony Paese rated it it was amazing
Casa de Editură Max Blecher și Editura Armanis au publicat în 2013 o carte de neratat pentru iubitorii de poezie, este vorba despre Cântece vis (The Dream Songs) de John Berryman, în iscusita traducere a lui Radu Vancu. De altfel, tot lui Radu Vancu îi aparține și postfața, în care biografia poetului american este asezonată cu observații profesioniste legate de tehnica poetică a lui Berryman.

De la bun început trebuie spus că John Berryman nu este un poet lejer: pentru el, poezia înseamnă în prim

Supporrano, poiché non ti colmavo l'orecchio
(Se mai altre orecchie udranno questi canti)
Di "amore" e "amore", che non ti amavo, ma mascheravo
La lussuria con immagini strane, calde, non proprio sincere,
Per far cadere al buio la stanza. Oh, ammutinata
Con me contro sí vuoti capitani! volgi ancora
Il tuo spregio a questa parola soprattutto
Pomposa e vaga sul moncone della sua carriera.

Eludo anche "cuore", che per un petto moderno
Ha suono vuoto di tamburo, e metto al bando "beltà";
Voglio un verso fr
Sep 17, 2016 Em rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
best book i've ever read, basically my bible, will carry it forever
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  • The Maximus Poems
  • Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror
  • Life Studies and For the Union Dead
  • The Selected Levis
  • The Sonnets
  • The Collected Poems of Frank O'Hara
  • Above the River: The Complete Poems
  • The Complete Poems
  • The Collected Poems
  • Steal Away: Selected and New Poems
  • The Great Fires
  • The Complete Poems
  • My Life
  • The Collected Poems
  • Trilogy: The Walls Do Not Fall / Tribute to the Angels / The Flowering of the Rod
  • Geography III
  • The Country Between Us
  • The Tunnel: Selected Poems
John Allyn Berryman (originally John Allyn Smith) was an American poet, born in McAlester, Oklahoma. He was a major figure in American poetry in the second half of the 20th century and often considered one of the founders of the Confessional school of poetry. He was the author of The Dream Songs, which are playful, witty, and morbid. Berryman committed suicide in 1972.

A pamphlet entitled Poems was
More about John Berryman...

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“Life, friends, is boring. We must not say so.
After all, the sky flashes, the great sea yearns,
we ourselves flash and yearn”
“Them lady poets must not marry, pal.” 24 likes
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