John Allyn McAlpin Berryman was an American poet and scholar. He was a major figure in American poetry in the second half of the 20th century. His best-known work is The Dream Songs. In 1950, Berryman published a biography of the fiction writer and poet Stephen Crane, whom he greatly admired. Explained below is The Ball Poem.
Berryman’s early work formed part of a volume titled Five Young American Poets, published by New Directions in 1940″. One of the other young poets included in the book was Randall Jarrell.
Berryman published some of this early verse in his first book, Poems, in 1942. His first mature collection of poems, The Dispossessed, appeared six years later, published by William Sloane Associates. The book received largely negative reviews from poets like Jarrell, who wrote, in The Nation, that Berryman was “a complicated, nervous, and intelligent [poet]” whose work was too derivative of W. B. Yeats. Berryman later said that “I didn’t want to be like Yeats; I wanted to be Yeats.” Berryman taught or lectured at a number of universities, including the University of Iowa (at the Writer’s Workshop), Harvard University, Princeton University, the University of Cincinnati, and the University of Minnesota, where he spent most of his career.
The poet John Berryman through his poem, ‘The ball poem’ has described the reality of life which everyone has to face one day. He has touched the topic of how to stand up against the miseries and sorrows of life.
What is the boy now, who has lost his ball,
What, what is he to do? I saw it go
Merrily bouncing, down the street, and then
Merrily over — there it is in the water!
No use to say ‘O there are other balls’:
An ultimate shaking grief fixes the boy
As he stands rigid, trembling, staring down
All his young days into the harbour where
His ball went. I would not intrude on him;
A dime, another ball, is worthless. Now
He senses first responsibility
In a world of possessions. People will take
Balls, balls will be lost always, little boy.
And no one buys a ball back. Money is external.
He is learning, well behind his desperate eyes,
The epistemology of loss, how to stand up
Knowing what every man must one day know
And most know many days, how to stand up.
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