Nicholas Montemarano's Reviews > Love & Fame

Love & Fame by John Berryman
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Jan 20, 12

Read from January 17 to 20, 2012

Some terrific poems in this collection, but after a while I grew tired of Berryman going on and on and on about all the woman he bedded (I kept turning to his author photo, an old, gray, long-bearded Berryman, and wondered how this man possibly could be the same guy who slept with so many women, so easily, many of them married). Also grew tired, more so, of his narcissism -- too many references to himself as a famous poet or to his famous poet friends.

The first 3 parts of the book consist of 48 poems, and I liked 12 of them enough to want to reread them. We see Berryman drinking and carousing and being arrogant. Then, at the end of Part 3, the book takes a turn: Berryman is in a sanatorium, where people "slob food" and he must endure "nights of witches" and dreams of a headless child. "Sobbings, a scream, a slam." He writes: "Many of the sane / walking the streets like trees / are weirder than my mournful fellow-patients; / they hide it better."

What truly makes the book is Part 4, "Eleven Addresses to the Lord," some of the most moving and powerful poetry I've ever read. He admits that God is "Unknowable, as I am unknown to my guinea pigs." He writes, "I have no idea whether we live again. / It doesn't seem likely." Both the evil and the just "fall asleep / dreamless forever while the words hurl out."
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