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Dream Songs, The

77 Dream Songs, His Toy, His Dream, His Rest: 308 Dream Songs

poems berryman

a body of 385 poems by John Berryman, initially published as 77 Dream Songs (1964) and His Toy, His Dream, His Rest: 308 Dream Songs (1968) and collected as The Dream Songs in 1969. Each poem consists of three six-line stanzas which make variable use of rhyme and employ a wide range of rhythmic effects. The sequence relies for its continuity on the presence of ‘Henry’, generally regarded as a quasi-autobiographical persona; pronominally referred to as ‘I’, ‘you’, or ‘he’, and frequently addressed by an anonymous interlocutor as ‘Mr Bones’, Henry provides The Dream Songs with their shifting centre, the basis for the poems' astonishingly fluid variations in tone and levels of discourse. Harshly demotic idioms are interchangeable, sometimes within the space of single poems, with baroquely erudite or urbanely conversational modes; the accumulating dramatic commentaries on himself and his times amount to Berryman's verbal mapping of the cultural, social, and existential contexts he inhabits. The tragic seriousness of which the work is capable is generally relieved by the play of his objectifying intelligence and remarkable wit, most pronounced in the blackly humorous ‘Op. posth.’ sections.

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