Dream Song 14
by John Berryman
Analysis: Calling Card
Songs! Henry! (And some other stuff too…)
Berryman poems, especially his "Dream Songs," are pretty easy to spot. Those six-line stanzas we discussed back in the Form section tend to stand out. And that Henry guy, who loves to refer to himself in the third person, is also hard to miss. Plus, Berryman isn't afraid of using ampersands, exclamation points, and even a well-placed set of parentheses here and there. While some other poets have been known to use these informal symbols in their work (e.g., e.e. cummings), they're still fairly unique.
The use of an exaggerated African-American dialect, common in minstrel shows from the days of vaudeville, is also pretty common in the "Dream Songs." So, if you find a poem with some of these characteristics, you can wow your friends and tell them it's probably a Berryman poem. If they still aren't impressed, send us some mail. We'll think you're cool.