17 November 2009

John Berryman

[a description of John Berryman writing "Homage to Mistress Bradstreet" from Paul Mariani's Dream Song: The Life of John Berryman, William Morrow, 1990]

Berryman began writing the poem at white heat. Each day he went to his studio to write a single stanza: no more, no less. By then he had hundreds of detached lines and notes, and he worked each piece over, stitching lines together into eight-line stanzas on an erasable, glassine-covered wax pad. He placed the fragments he already had beneath the glassine and then worked at connecting his lines and revising each stanza. At lunchtime he descended to his apartment with his new stanza and read it over and over to Eileen, then returned to the studio to work at it again. At dinner, elated and exhausted, he read the revised stanza to her again.

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