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John Berryman papers

 Collection
Identifier: Mss043

Scope and Content Note

Collection contains manuscripts, notes, typescripts, galleys and proofs of works in poetry and prose. Also includes photographs, diaries, awards, financial records and other personal papers.

Dates

  • 1908-1972

Language of Materials

English

Restrictions on Access

Access restricted; written permission required; consult the archivist for further information.

Copyright

Copyright retained by Berryman's family.

Biographical Note

John Berryman was a poet, scholar, and professor born in MacAlester, Oklahoma in 1914. Born John Allyn Smith, Jr., the poet spent a majority of his childhood in Oklahoma until 1926 when his father, John Smith, Sr., committed suicide. Shortly after his father's death, his mother Martha Smith remarried John Berryman and changed her to Jill Berryman. The poet also took the last name of his new stepfather, and the family moved to New York City.

Berryman attended Columbia College in New York City from 1932 to 1936. There he studied English under the mentorship of Mark Van Doren, who urged Berryman to seriously pursue poetry writing. His earliest published poems appeared in The Southern Review (1937), and his first publication of collected poems appeared in Five Young American Poets (1940).

Berryman's Homage to Mistress Bradstreet was the first work to garner significant critical attention. Published in 1953, Homage concerned 17th-century poet Anne Bradstreet; the work was complex in it's mixture of historical allusions and Berryman's own fantasies about Bradstreet and her life. His most significant contribution to the American poetic canon came in 1964 with the publication of 77 Dream Songs, the first of two volumes of short, three-stanza lyric poems. The book was awarded the Pulitzer Prize and the poems were praised for their range in language and tone, as well as Berryman's tight technical control.

Along with his accomplishments in poetry writing, Berryman was also an avid scholar and active professor throughout his career. He taught at several universities until he settled in Minneapolis in the mid-1950s as a lecturer in the Humanities Department at the University of Minnesota. His research interests included fiction writer Stephen Crane, Shakespeare and his dramatic works, and the work of his contemporaries. His biography of Stephen Crane was published in 1950; his essays on Shakespeare, Robert Lowell, Dylan Thomas, and other writers were collected posthumously in The Freedom of the Poet (1976).

John Berryman suffered from depression and alcoholism throughout much of his adult life, likely stemming from the trauma of his father's death and his turbulent childhood. In 1972 the poet committed suicide when he jumped from the Washington Avenue Bridge in Minneapolis, Minnesota. His poetry is now considered exemplary of the Confessional poetry movement, as defined by the intensely personal poems of writers such as himself, Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton, and Robert Lowell during the 1950s and 1960s.

Extent

57 Cubic Feet

Abstract

Collection contains manuscripts, notes, typescripts, galleys and proofs of works in poetry and prose. Also includes photographs, diaries, awards, financial records and other personal papers.

Arrangement

The collection is roughly organized by material type including diaries, correspondence, prose, poetry, personal papers, photographs, etc.

Physical Location

Mezz (R68, D3, S7-8; R79, D1-D4, S4; R80, D8 S2-D9); Mezz (R79, D4, S1; R67, D7, S7) [unproc.]

Other Finding Aid

An unpublished, detailed finding aid is available in the archives. Please contact the archivist for details.

Acquisition

Purchase, 1972.

Notable Correspondents' List

This lists notable persons whose letters are located in Berryman's chronological correspondence. The list was created by staff as they processed the collection. The dates after the correspondents' name are the inclusive dates of letters; many correspondents also have undated letters.
  1. Aiken, Conrad 1959-1968
  2. Arrowsmith, William 1943
  3. Auden, Wystan Hugh 1939
  4. Arendt, Hannah 1948
  5. Bellow, Saul 1952-1971
  6. Benet, Stephen Vincent [undated]
  7. Bently, Eric 1960
  8. Bishop, Elizabeth 1945-1949, 1968-1970
  9. Bishop, John Peale 1939
  10. Blackmur, Richard P 1936-1943
  11. Bly, Robert 1956-1959
  12. Brandt, Joseph A. 1946
  13. Brinnen, John 1939
  14. Brooks, Cleanth 1937-1939
  15. Bynner, Witter 1959
  16. Campbell, Bhain 1938-1945 (plus many undated)
  17. Carruth, Hayden 1949
  18. Cavett, Dick 1970
  19. Cerf, Bennett 1935-1939
  20. Chase, Mary Ellen 1943
  21. Cowley, Malcolm 1935-1971
  22. Creeley, Robert 1950, 1961
  23. Damon, Samuel Foster 1967
  24. Decker, James A. 1939
  25. De Joug, David C. 1940
  26. Deutsch, Babette 1940
  27. DeVries, Peter 1939
  28. Dickey, James 1957-1958, 1970-1971
  29. Dillon, George 1939, 1948
  30. Eberhart, Richard 1939-1940
  31. Engle, Paul 1947-1949
  32. Fadiman, Clifton 1945, 1959
  33. Faulkner, William 1956
  34. Fitts, Dudley 1959, 1964
  35. Fitzgerald, Robert 1952-1966 (plus many undated)
  36. Fraser, Donald 1971
  37. Giroux, Robert 1936-1971 (bulk 1964-1971)
  38. Gray, C. H. 1945
  39. Greenberg, Alvin 1959
  40. Greenberg, Martin 1948, 1959
  41. Harris, Mark 1956
  42. Hardwick, Elizabeth 1949
  43. Hook, Sydney 1951
  44. Howe, Irving 1947, 1965
  45. Humphrey, Hubert 1971
  46. Hutchens, John E. 1947
  47. Jarrell, Randall 1946-1948
  48. Justice, Don 1954-1965
  49. Kazin, Alfred 1954
  50. Kennedy, Edward M. 1971
  51. Knopf, Alfred, Jr. 1949
  52. Krutch, Joseph Wood 1936
  53. Lee, Lawrence 1939
  54. Lowell, Robert [a.k.a. "Cal"] 1946-1970
  55. Lyons, Eugene 1942
  56. Lytle, Andrew 1963
  57. Maas, Willard 1939
  58. Mailer, Norman 1951
  59. McCarthy, Eugene 1969
  60. Merriam, Eve 1940
  61. Merwin, Bill 1956, 1971
  62. Miller, Merle 1947-1948
  63. Moon, Bucklin 1947-1949
  64. Moore, Marianne 1949, 1953
  65. Moos, Malcolm 1969-1971
  66. Moss, Howard 1958
  67. Naftalin, Arthur 1968
  68. Oates, Whitney J. 1949-1953
  69. Palmer, J. E. 1946-1948
  70. Parkman, Francis 1939
  71. Patchen, Kenneth 1939
  72. Phillips, William 1947-1948
  73. Pound, Ezra 1947-1949
  74. Pound, Omar (Ezra's son) 1947
  75. Powers, James Farl 1960
  76. Rago, Henry 1963-1966
  77. Rahv, Phillip 1939-1956
  78. Ransom, John Crowe 1939-1951 (plus many undated)
  79. Rich, Adrienne 1968-1970
  80. Roethke, Theodore 1939-1958
  81. Santayana, George 1951
  82. Schoren, Mark 1963
  83. Schwartz, Delmore 1939-1949
  84. Schwartz, Gertrude 1943-1944
  85. Shapiro, Karl 1939-1952, 1969
  86. Sharp, Paul F. 1970-1971
  87. Snyder, Gary 1969
  88. Stafford, Jean 1947-1948
  89. Stephan, Ruth 1948
  90. Stevens, George 1939
  91. Stewart, George W. 1946
  92. Steihl, Harry 1963-1966
  93. Swallow, Alan 1942-1949
  94. Swan, Emma 1940-1967 (bulk 1940-1942)
  95. Tate, Allen 1936-1971
  96. Thomas, Dylan 1938
  97. Untermeyer, Louis 1947-1949
  98. Van Doren, Mark 1934-1971
  99. Van Gelder, Robert 1944
  100. Wang, Arthur W. 1963
  101. Warren, Robert Penn 1936-1945
  102. Weaver, Raymond Melbourne 1936
  103. Weiss, Theodore 1948-1953
  104. Wheelock, John Hall 1948
  105. Whittemore, Reed 1970-1971
  106. Williams, Oscar 1939-1963 (bulk 1939-1944)
  107. Williams, William Carlos 1939, 1951
  108. Wilson, Edmund 1940-1959
  109. Wilson, O. Meredith 1962-1965
  110. Wright, James 1964 (not complete; noted as found)
  111. Yeats, William Butler 1936-1937
  112. Ziebarth, W. W. 1967

Processing Information

The collection was processed and the finding aid written by Craig Olson, student processors, and other Archives and Special Collections staff.

In addition to this finding aid, the books found Berryman's personal library has been cataloged. Individual titles and can be found by using the search term "Mss043" in the University of Minnesota Libraries catalog at www.lib.umn.edu.
Title
John Berryman Papers
Author
Archives and Special Collections Staff
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
English
Script of description
Latin
Language of description note
English

Collecting Area Details

Contact The Upper Midwest Literary Archives Collecting Area

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