[lit-ideas] Re: American poetic scene at the beginning of 72

  • From: "Lawrence Helm" <lawrencehelm@xxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Wed, 11 Oct 2006 13:19:40 -0700

Irene:  You should consult the biography you say you know.  Berryman was
killing himself with alcohol. He was being admitted, often by himself for
alcohol poisoning.  The doctors told him he would literally kill himself if
he couldn't quit; so he resolved to quit, again and again.  Read the bio you
have and you'll discover the reasons he started again.  He was in some
really good conversations.  He was having a good time.  He needed to
celebrate.  In no case in either bio I read did he drink because of alleged


While he was in the throes of writing Dream Songs he had a routine and
drinking was part of it.  He believed he was doing something important,
something that would put him on the top, a coherent set of Dream Songs
written with one voice and interrelated.  


Besides, it isn't my argument.  It is what Berryman thought. It is what his
biographers thought.  It is what my father thought (he was born the same
year as Berryman), and it is what I was taught as I grew up.  When I
developed an interest in writing I hung out with a similar group of writers
and we all drank because that is what writers did.  That was our
one-size-fits-all psychiatry.  But I trusted my own experience over that
belief and eventually gave it up.  Drinkers don't hang out with non-drinkers
so I lost touch with them.  


As to your one-size-fits-all psychology, I suspect the record of psychiatric
success would be about the same as it would be if anyone was listened to by
an intelligent sympathetic ear.  But who is going to perform such a test?
They used to prescribe your one-size-fits-all psychiatry for Manic
Depression, but if that were done today it would be considered malpractice.
This is per Kay Jamison Redfield who coauthored the authoritative text on
Manic Depression.  


Berryman's, Robert Lowell's, Delmore Schwartz experiences with psychiatrists
was like that of Tony Sopranos and that of virtually everyone else who has
spent time in therapy.   


As to the unconscious, read Wittgenstein Reads Freud, The Myth of the
Unconscious, by Jacques Bouveresse.  






From: lit-ideas-bounce@xxxxxxxxxxxxx [mailto:lit-ideas-bounce@xxxxxxxxxxxxx]
On Behalf Of Andy Amago
Sent: Wednesday, October 11, 2006 10:29 AM
To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
Subject: [lit-ideas] Re: American poetic scene at the beginning of 72


I discovered that I was an aberration, that is, I could write better sober.
But none of drank to numb his pain. 


You destroy your whole arugment in that line.  Just why did Berryman drink
and why did he kill himself when he stopped drinking?



Other related posts: