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The Heart Is Strange (Paperback)

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By John Berryman, Daniel Swift (Introduction by), Daniel Swift (Editor)
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Staff Reviews

John Berryman was a really "complicated" man. The go to euphemism for any alcoholic, mid-20th century, lecherous, confessional poet who simultaneously lifts your soul with his art but kind of grosses you out with his personality. The Heart Is Strange collects the best poems from his experimental and influential career. His early more formal works, his adultery love letter Sonnets series, the "Henry" Dream Songs greatest hits, and most wonderfully his later works from Love & Fame and Delusions, Etc., not as widely discussed but probably his finest poems. Berryman became harder on himself in the last years of his life. While that self-critique inspired his tragic leap from the Washington Avenue bridge, it also led to the most empathetic poetry he'd ever written and hopefully this beautiful book can help promote analysis of those forgotten works. Each of these FSG editions is beautifully put together with insightful introductions and gorgeously minimal design, but this one makes for the perfect overview of one of the 20th centuries finest poetic voices.

— From Cory


John Berryman was perhaps the most idiosyncratic American poet of the twentieth century. Best known for the painfully sad and raucously funny cycle of Dream Songs, he wrote passionately: of love and despair, of grief and laughter, of longing for a better world and coming to terms with this one. The paperback edition of The Heart Is Strange has been updated to include a selection from the Dream Songs alongside poems from across his career.

The Heart Is Strange shows Berryman in all his variety: from his earliest poems, which show him learning the craft, to his breakthrough masterpiece, "Homage to Mistress Bradstreet"; then to his mature verses, which find the poet looking back upon his lovers and youthful passions; and finally to his late poems, in which he battles with sobriety and an increasingly religious sensibility.

The defiant joy and wild genius of Berryman's work has been obscured by his struggles with mental illness and alcohol, his tempestuous relationships with women, and his suicide. This volume celebrates the whole Berryman: tortured poet and teasing father, fiery lover and melancholy scholar. It is a perfect introduction to one of the finest bodies of work yet produced by an American poet.

About the Author

John Berryman (1914-1972) was an American poet and scholar. He won the Pulitzer Prize for 77 Dream Songs in 1965 and the National Book Award and the Bollingen Prize for His Toy, His Dream, His Rest, a continuation of the Dream Songs, in 1969. Daniel Swift is the author of Bomber County: The Poetry of a Lost Pilot's War and Shakespeare's Common Prayers. He teaches at the New College of the Humanities in London.
Product Details
ISBN: 9780374535780
ISBN-10: 0374535787
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication Date: April 5th, 2016
Pages: 208
Language: English