Study Guide

Dream Song 14 Versions of Reality

By John Berryman

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Versions of Reality

Whenever you're reading this poem and thinking, "Hey, what the heck is going on here?" just remember the title: "Dream Song 14." That's right, Toto, we're not in Kansas anymore. Or New Jersey. Or wherever you are. We're in Berryman's Dreamland. And you know how it is when you're dreaming. Things can be going along in a nice, linear, logical way, then, BAM! All of a sudden, you're someplace else. Or, someone or something appears with no warning—a dog, perhaps? All this disorienting appearing, disappearing, and flying around can be fun, but sometimes, it's downright disturbing.

Questions About Versions of Reality

  1. Would you understand this poem differently if "Dream" wasn't in the title? If so, what would be different about your reading of the poem?
  2. Which lines or stanzas seem most dream-like? Why?
  3. What kinds of connections can you make between the repetition of words and phrases in the poem and the theme of altered reality? It might help to think about conversations and images from your own dreams. (If your dreams are usually scary, you can skip this one.)

Chew on This

If you don't accept that this poem is set in the land of dream logic, then it's unintelligible gibberish.

Berryman relies on repetition to lull us into a dreamy state.

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