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This article is taken from Poetry Nation 2 Number 2, 1974.

John Berryman Jonathan Galassi


The writer softens the egotistical character of the day-dream by changes and disguises, and he bribes us by the offer of a purely formal, that is, aesthetic, pleasure in the presentation of his phantasies. The increment of pleasure which is offered us in order to release yet greater pleasure arising from deeper sources in the mind is called an 'incitement premium' or technically, 'forepleasure'. I am of opinion that all the aesthetic pleasure we gain from the work of imaginative writers is of the same type as this 'fore-pleasure', and that the true enjoyment of literature proceeds from the release of tensions in our minds.

- Freud, 'The Relation of the
Poet to Day-Dreaming', tr. Joan Rivière


FREUD TELLS US that unsatisfied ambitions and erotic wishes are the prime roots of phantasy, and, as its title indicates, Love and Fame is devoted like all Berryman's last work to the phantasies or delusions which dominated the poet's life. 'Her & It', 'Shirley & Auden', a passion for literary renown and an insatiable sexual urge inform this obsessive, regretful recollection of Berryman's youth, when these tremendous forces were only beginning to make themselves felt, and everything was still possible:

I dreamt at times in those days of my name
blown by adoring winds all over


And:

'I wish my penis was big enough for this whole lake!'
My phantasy precisely at twenty:
to satisfy ...


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