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  • 11/13/2010

The Dream Songs

by John Berryman

dream songs

which I came to by way of The Hold Steady’s Boys and Girls in America, clearly counts The Cantos among its million billion influences. And at first blush, The Dream Songs seem equally baffling – the kind of private language the philosophers tell us isn’t possible:

                      Le’s do a hoedown, gal,

one blue, one shuffle,

if them is all you seem to réquire. Strip,

ol banger, skip us we, sugar; so hang on

one chaste evenin.

-Sir Bones, or Galahad: astonishin

yo legal & yo good.

Who is Mr. Bones? Why the dialect? And what’s up with that accent mark over the “e”? These are the same kinds of questions Pound invites. For all their fragmentation, though, The Dream Songs are intensely intimate in a way The Cantos never quite manage. Through a variety of moods and methods, they adumbrate the life and consciousness of a hero as multifarious and singular as Joyce’s Humphrey Chimpden Earwicker. Also: Berryman’s ear is astonishing. Sometimes a Difficult Book is more swimming pool than jigsaw puzzle. Rather than trying to solve it, we do better just to jump in.

Source: themillions.com

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