The Golden Pelt: Berryman and the Fame Equation

1238058_10151637865032231_374836241_nAs demonstrated in Dream Song 16, Berryman was quite ambivalent toward what it meant to be a celebrity poet in contemporary America.  In essence, he was to become, like Henry, a golden pelt hung on the wall at a sophisticated cocktail party, something for the cognoscenti barracuda to admire and whistle at before they drank their daiquiris and began to hit on one another, telling their lies.  Even so, aware of this potential fate, Berryman attacked his literary dreams with a seeming religious intensity—for the fate of the third servant, the one who had wasted his talent, was far worse: being cast in the outer darkness, with the requisite weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Read the rest in The Writer’s Chronicle October/November 2013


  1. Hey Michael,

    Couldn’t find an email address for you anywhere, so I came here to tell you this article is really great. I’m fascinated by the concept of celebrity in poetry (which seems like such a funny thing to say, but…). I’d love to know if you’ve written anything else on the topic, or on Berryman.

    Anyway, thanks for the really thought-provoking read. It’s making me fill in my email below, so I assume you’ll have it. I’d love to talk more if you think you might have the time.


  2. Bury the Man in Fame

    Jack wasn’t famous, not so well known
    that neighbors knew his name around his home.
    At the bar, the late-night everything corner store,
    and the bus they called him what he was, Pro-fess-sore,
    or Doc, to be informal, who better knew,
    or so they thought, what he amounted to.

    But turns out that in his secretest innermost mind
    he had a truth in hiding from mankind.
    What was it? Damnéd if he knew;
    he’d stay up late at night, soaking in stew
    in hopes it would arrive to him in dream.

    Never clear, ambiguity would seem
    his future. In his chaise longue on the Moon,
    he’d hum himself asleep with an old Nep-tune.

    –Don Riggs 5:56 PM 10/3/2013 Philadelphia

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