Philip Coleman is a lecturer in English Studies in Trinity College Dublin, where he specialises in American Literature and is Director of the MPhil in Literatures of the Americas programme. He has co-edited 'After thirty Falls': New Essays on John Berryman (2007) and, most recently, 'Forever Young'?: The Changing Images of America (2011).
Drawing on published and previously unpublished manuscript sources in poetry and prose, John Berryman's Public Vision offers an original reappraisal of an important twentieth-century American poet's work. Challenging the confessional labelling of him that has dominated his critical reception and popular perception for decades, the book argues that Berryman (1914-72) had a far greater concern for developments in the public sphere than has previously been acknowledged. It reassesses the poet's engagements with W.B. Yeats and Robert Bhain Campbell in the 1940s and offers radical re- contexualisations of Berryman's work from every stage of his career. Concluding with an account of Berryman's influence on contemporary writing on both sides of the Atlantic, John Berryman's Public Vision provides a detailed and comprehensive reconsideration of the poet's achievement in his centenary year.
- 'A force of nature, unique and new'?
- Relocating 'the scene of disorder'
Confessionalism and its Discontents
'Formal Elegy' and John Berryman in the Public Sphere
- John Berryman's Public Vision
Writing the 'decade of Survival'
- 1938-48 Projecting 'nightmares of Eden'
'Mr Heartbreak, the New Man'
Questions 'of priesthood & of State'
- Holding with Berryman
''I think there is something instructive here about how future studies of Berryman’s writing can seek to contextualise the confessional and to reawaken it beyond its use as a way of narrowing our concepts of the poetic self.
If this is to become an ongoing project within scholarship not just on Berryman, but peers such as Robert Lowell and Marianne Moore, then Coleman’s study should be the lodestar guiding future criticism’s direction of travel.'
Eborakon Nov 2015
You can read the full review here.
'Coleman’s study aims at a major rehabilitation of Berryman’s critical standing … One of the most satisfying aspects of [his] revisionary treatment of Berryman is to excavate the poet’s merciless craft and belief in syntax.
Wrenching Berryman’s poetry free... & locating it at the heart of a public poetics'
You can read the full review here.
‘Coleman presents new finds from the wealth of archival material held at the University of Minnesota, drawing on letters, manuscripts, unpublished essays and heavily marked-up books. They reveal Berryman’s breadth of interests and his decades of evolving thought. Throughout his superbly thorough study, Coleman directs our attention to the richness of Berryman’s allusions, and thereby to how Berryman’s wide reading makes its way into his poems.’
Dublin Review of Books
‘Coleman is convincingly thorough, drawing upon works across Berryman’s entire oeuvre, including his criticism … and his fiction … Coleman’s book contains numerous discussions of individual poems found in The Heart is Strange, reinforcing the timeliness of its publication and the worthwhile selection of its contents.’
Patrick James Dunagan, The Rumpus
‘Coleman’s painstaking, well-argued book, is a fitting tribute to a great poet whose work must not be dismissed as “merely confessional”. This is an important contribution to the study of American poetry as well as to a proper understanding of the grounds and thrust of poetry through the ages.’
The Irish Catholic
‘John Berryman’s Public Vision allows the poet to be seen in a radically new way that also challenges the confessional label that has stuck to him, and some of his contemporaries, for too long.’
The Irish Times
‘John Berryman’s Public Vision is a significant contribution to poetry studies, with something new to say. Philip Coleman’s book will certainly become a key critical text in future considerations of Berryman’s importance and meaning—and it may well become the key critical text. To the extent that Berryman’s poems endure and prevail, as I think they will, Coleman’s stimulating study will be there, guiding the conversation. A new Berryman arises from these pages, one that should interest a reading culture newly sensitized to the importance of political experience and to the power of the outsider’s viewpoint.’
Steven Gould Axelrod (Distinguished Professor, University of California, Riverside), author of Robert Lowell: Life and Art (1978) and Sylvia Plath: The Wound and the Cure of Words (1990).
‘Philip Coleman succeeds admirably in rescuing John Berryman from the reductive trappings born of our institutional imperatives, revivifying the multi-dimensional portrait this brilliant poet deserves. The project is as far-ranging and subtle as its subject is complex; the close readings make for a bright, steady beam of revelation; and the ongoing dialogue with fellow scholars and readers is at once perceptive, forceful, and even-handed. Throughout, Coleman’s expository style is consistently lucid and thoughtfully persuasive—no small blessing in these days. Berryman himself was typically amused and diffident when appreciators wished to put their praise into prose: I think he would have been gratified by Coleman’s robust, original, and eminently readable re-visioning of Berryman’s body of work, so vital to the American poetic tradition—and to the public life of our culture.’
Eric Haralson (Stony Brook University), ed., Reading the Middle Generation Anew: Culture, Community, and Form in Twentieth-Century American Poetry (2006)
‘Although it has been the subject of ongoing and devastating critique for more than a decade, the Confessional Paradigm remains a presence in the realm of critical discussion, serving to confuse literary history and to affect for the worse the reputations of poets such as Berryman. Philip Coleman’s brilliantly researched and argued study, with its focus on the public and political side of Berryman’s poetry, reveals definitively the ways in which Berryman’s poetry points outward, serving as a searchlight to explore the dangers of conventional thinking and received political wisdom. By showing how extensively Berryman’s work opens out into the larger world, Coleman’s important study bids fair to lay the confessional paradigm to rest, once and for all.’
Thomas Travisano (Hartwick College), author of Midcentury Quartet: Bishop, Lowell, Jarrell, Berryman and the Making of a Postmodern Aesthetic (1999).