The Song of the Demented Priest

By John Berryman 1914–1972 John Berryman
I put those things there.—See them burn.
The emerald the azure and the gold
Hiss and crack, the blues & greens of the world
As if I were tired. Someone interferes
Everywhere with me. The clouds, the clouds are torn
In ways I do not understand or love.

Licking my long lips, I looked upon God
And he flamed and he was friendlier
Than you were, and he was small. Showing me
Serpents and thin flowers; these were cold.
Dominion waved & glittered like the flare
From ice under a small sun. I wonder.

Afterward the violent and formal dancers
Came out, shaking their pithless heads.
I would instruct them but I cannot now,—
Because of the elements. They rise and move,
I nod a dance and they dance in the rain
In my red coat. I am the king of the dead.

John Berryman, "The Song of the Demented Priest" from Collected Poems, 1937-1971. Copyright © 1989 by John Berryman. Used by permission of Farrar, Straus & Giroux, LLC, www.fsgbooks.com. All rights reserved.

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Source: Collected Poems, 1937-1971 (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1989)

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Poet John Berryman 1914–1972

SCHOOL / PERIOD Confessional

Subjects Religion, Christianity, Faith & Doubt, The Spiritual

 John  Berryman

Biography

A scholar and professor as well as a poet, John Berryman is best-known for The Dream Songs, an intensely personal sequence of 385 poems which brought him the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award. In these he invented a style and form able to accommodate a vast range of material while expressing his turbulent emotions.

Born John Smith in McAlester, Oklahoma, in 1914, Berryman suffered a great loss at 12 when his father shot . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Religion, Christianity, Faith & Doubt, The Spiritual

SCHOOL / PERIOD Confessional

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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