American poet John Berryman.

John Berryman

(1914 - 1972)

While on a fellowship at Cambridge University in the late 1930s, John Berryman met, among other poets, W.H. Auden and W.B. Yeats. He published Poems in 1942, the biography Stephen Crane in 1950, and Homage to Mistress Bradstreet in 1956. At the age of fifty-seven in 1972, Berryman committed suicide by jumping off a bridge onto the ice of the Mississippi River.

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“Among the greatest pieces of luck for high achievement is ordeal,” poet John Berryman told an interviewer in 1970, two years before his death. “Certain great artists can make out without it, Titian and others, but mostly you need ordeal. My idea is this: the artist is extremely lucky who is presented with the worst possible ordeal which will not actually kill him. At that point, he’s in business.”

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