Adrienne Rich: On "Negro Minstrelsy" in The Dream Songs

A new language is evolving in the heads of some Americans who use English. Some streak of genius in Berryman told him to try on what he’s referred to as "that god-damned baby talk," that blackface dialect, for his persona. No political stance taught him, no rational sympathy with negritude. For blackface is the supreme dialect and posture of this country, going straight to the roots of our madness. A man who needs to discourse on the most extreme, most tragic subjects, has recourse to nigger talk. "Arrive a time when all coons lose dere grip" … early in the 77; most flamboyant, most broad blackface. Later, more complexly, the muted, the whispering "Come away, Mr. Bones." Come away! Shakespeare’s English and some minstrelsy refrain meet, salute and inform each other.

 

From Adrienne Rich, "Living with Henry," (originally in the Harvard Advocate in Spring 1969), rep. in Harry Thomas Ed. Berryman’s Understanding: Reflections on the Poetry of John Berryman (Boston: Northeastern U P, 1988), 129-130

Details

Criticism Overview
Title Adrienne Rich: On "Negro Minstrelsy" in The Dream Songs Type of Content Criticism
Criticism Author Adrienne Rich Criticism Target John Berryman
Criticism Type Poet Originally Posted 15 Sep 2014
Publication Status Excerpted Criticism Publication Living with Henry
Printer Friendly PDF Version
Contexts No Data Tags blackface dialect, persona, political, rational, negritude, nigger talk, supreme dialect

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