One for the English majors

It’s February 2, when bloggers post a favorite poem if they remember to. Here’s John Berryman’s “A Professor’s Song.”

(. . .rabid or dog-dull.) Let me tell you how
The Eighteenth Century couplet ended. Now
Tell me. Troll me the sources of that Song—
Assigned last week—by Blake. Come, come along,
Gentleman. (Fidget and huddle, do. Squint soon.)
I want to end these fellows all by noon.

‘That deep romantic chasm’—an early use;
The word is from the French, by our abuse
Fished out a bit. (Red all your eyes. O when?)
‘A poet is a man speaking to men’:
But I am then a poet, am I not?—
Ha ha. The radiator, please. Well, what?

Alive now—no—Blake would have written prose,
But movement following movement crisply flows,
So much the better, better the much so,
As burbleth Mozart. Twelve. The class can go.
Until I meet you, then, in Upper Hell
Convulsed, foaming immortal blood: farewell.

One of my teachers during his student days took a poetry-writing workshop with Berryman. Berryman was not gentle in his critiques of the students’ efforts. Forty students enrolled in the course; two weeks into the semester, only fifteen were left. However, of those fifteen, twelve went on to publish at least four books each.