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Dream Song 14

Dream Song 14


by John Berryman

Analysis: Sound Check

Despite the title, "Dream Song 14" doesn't sound very song-like to us. It lacks a regular rhyme scheme and alliteration, both of which can give poems a sing-song-y feel. But the voice of the piece is very conversational. The contrast between the speaker's informality and the sonic awesomeness we'd normally expect from a song further orients us to Berryman's dreamscape. You know how dreams can be: something is always a little off. You might be eating a plate of spinach, but it tastes like chocolate cake. (We wish.)

If you read this poem aloud, you'll probably notice the repetition of certain words and phrases. Berryman ends lines 2 and 3 with "yearn." He begins lines 7 and 8 with "inner resources." And there are seven different variations on "bored"—four in the second stanza alone.

These repetitions are doing a lot of work for the poem. First, they emphasize its central theme: boredom. Because who wants to hear the same few words over and over again? They also give us that sound sense of a skipping record, which can really grate on you. Like other stuff that is boring or annoying. And, finally, Berryman's repetitions mimic those odd, repeated moments we all have in our dreams. (Or, those odd, repeated moments that tell you there's a glitch in the matrix!)

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