john berryman

I Am Heavy Bored

It’s amazing how many times I’ve received this email, usually from a sane, diligent, intelligent and widely-published poet. Have your received it too? Have you done it?

I’m totes pro this sort of thing, cuz, whatever, it’s sweethearted and anyway I’m against more important things like reality TV, but when I first received it (from Mike Young—I told him it was going down on his permanent record), I thought for a minute about what poem I would send.

Then I realized if I did this, I could potentially receive a poem from ~20 people.

Who started this?

Some friends started a collective, constructive, and hopefully uplifting exchange, a form of email art exchange. It’s a one-time thing and we hope you will participate. We have picked those we think would be faithful, and make it fun. Please take just a few minutes to send an encouraging quote or verse to the person whose name is in position 1 below (even if you don’t know him or her). It should be a favorite text verse/poem/meditation/recipe that has lifted you when you were experiencing challenging times. Don’t agonize over it–it is one you reach for when you need it or the one that you always turn to.


After you’ve sent the short poem/verse/meditation/quote/etc. to the person in position 1, and only that person, copy this letter into a new email, move my name to position 1. and put your name in position 2. Only my name and your name should show when you email. Send to ~20 friends BCC (blind copy). If you cannot do this in five days, let us know so it will be fair to those participating. It’s fun to see where they come from. Seldom does anyone drop out because we all need new ideas and inspiration. The turnaround is fast, as there are only two names on the list, and you only have to do it once.

Random / 7 Comments
March 10th, 2014 / 9:58 am

The Kmart Belles Lettres Conference Summation

Photo 194

As many are already absolutely aware, beginning on March 6 and ending on March 9 there was a literary conference — sponsored by Bambi Muse and Fox News — of sparkly specialness. That literary conference — the Kmart Belles Lettres Conference — was clamorous, and clamor commands a summary. So here is a summary!

March 6 (Day 1):

Most of the attendees were in a foul mood for the first day. Edie Sedgwick, for one, lost her fur in a cab on the night before and refused to mingle with anyone, even the sharp society poet Edith Sitwell. Sitwell tried to offer Edie a coup of tea, but Edie insisted that no one speak to her about anything unless it was directly related to the recovery of her fur coat.

So, instead Sitwell started a conversation with none other than Baby Adolf, the first Bambi Muse baby. Here’s a snippet of their chat:


Events & I Like __ A Lot / 9 Comments
March 14th, 2013 / 4:01 pm

It is Friday: Go Write Ahead.

Brood, I do, on myself naked

She handed me a full glass and said, “This is the last drink you will ever take”

Are you equally unspectacular?

If you love me, as I love you

We’ll both be friendly and untrue

When you go. Go TV spots and skywriting. I mean it

I am surprised and pleased at the recent abundance of the nearly naked

I am not even going to drink. Only beer or brandy

We have reason to be afraid. This is a terrible place

Our friend the owl

Something has been said for sobriety but very little

Smears brandy on the trampling boot

Up to the bar on a donkey!

Blessings on thee, little man

Barefoot boy, with cheek of tan

But helicopters

Author Spotlight & Random / 2 Comments
February 11th, 2011 / 7:26 pm

(Not) Today in Class: Two Assignments

Dream a little dream. I dreamed last night that I almost killed two kittens I was keeping in Tupperware. I forgot to give them water.

Next week my students will come to class with dream journals and dream poems in hand. They’ve spent a week remembering their dreams or making up their dreams. They’ll be thinking about dream logic and dreaming about thinking logic. They will want to spend class talking about dreams, and we will because I like talking about my dreams as much as the next dreamer. One of my favorite poems is Berryman’s “Dream Song 14,” though it isn’t very dreamlike:

Life, friends, is boring. We must not say so.
After all, the sky flashes, the great sea yearns,
we ourselves flash and yearn,
and moreover my mother told me as a boy
(repeatingly) “Ever to confess you’re bored
means you have no

Inner Resources.” I conclude now I have no
inner resources, because I am heavy bored.
Peoples bore me,
literature bores me, especially great literature,
Henry bores me, with his plights & gripes
as bad as Achilles,

who loves people and valiant art, which bores me.
And the tranquil hills, & gin, look like a drag
and somehow a dog
has taken itself & its tail considerably away
into the mountains or sea or sky, leaving
behind: me, wag.

Two more of my favorite dream poems, and these follow a  straightforwardly beautiful dream-logic, are James Tate’s “All Over the Lot” and Charles Simic’s “Early Evening Algebra.” More poems about dreams and sleep here. Write a matter-of-fact poem about a recent dream you’ve had. Don’t embellish; don’t editorialize. Write it straight.

Last week, as I’ve mentioned, we did Alternate Surfaces in class. Index-as-poem, driving directions-as-poem. These kinds of poems follow a different logic, and while not “dreamlike,” it’s one that doesn’t make immediate “sense” to the eye. Oh, but it’s such a cool way to stretch and tug at perception. You should do this too. Write a poem or story in a new form. Here’s what my students came up with. Poem as:


Craft Notes / 10 Comments
October 14th, 2010 / 10:14 pm

Power Quote: John Berryman

We must travel in the direction of our fear.

—John Berryman, October 25, 1914 – January 7, 1972

Power Quote / 7 Comments
April 16th, 2010 / 2:18 pm