Rediscovering John Berryman

About Documentary


What is this documentary about?

World renowned poet, John Berryman, [1914-1972] belonged to a group known as "the confessional poets." As an academic, he was considered a premier Shakespeare scholar. As a teacher, he engendred a cult following with many students. Some of these students became Pulitzer Prize winners. He himself had also won a Pulitzer Prize for literature, among many other prestigious literary awards. As a person, he was a devoted son to his mother his entire life. However, he was married multiple times and known as a philanderer. 

A complex and flamboyant personality, he suffered a lifelong addiction to alcohol. His drunken behavior was legendary. His struggle with alcohol was a common theme in his writing. His last attempt at rehab was the theme of a veiled autobiography in his only novel and last work called "Delusions." 

After his suicide in 1972, when he jumped off the Washington Avenue bridge at the University of Minnesota (where he was teaching),  his work fell into obscurity. Although many of his peers (such as Dylan Thomas and Sylvia Plath) became standards of poetry for their time, he did not. His tragic career and life are buried in the zig-zag flow of his "Dream Songs." There is a question as to whether it is his award-winning work or his tragic life that has inspired musicians (such as Janika Vandervelde) and indie rock bands (such as The Hold Steady and Okkervil River), writers and filmmakers. Whatever the answer, there is a new generation of fans that is beginning to rediscover the man and his works.

Who is making this documentary?

Minnesota Made Productions LLC is a Twin Cities based production company. Local legend, Al Milgrom, is directing. Known best for The Film Society of Minneapolis-St. Paul and the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Film Festival [MSPIFF]Al has previously directed the short documentaries, The Red Barn and The Bramble Experience. He has completed the feature-length documentary version of the Red Barn protest now called The Dinkytown Uprising, with a World Premiere at MSPIFF 2015 on Sunday, April 12th. Along with Kelly Lamphear-Dash as Producer. Kelly was Associate Producer for The American Business Video Series, among others, as well as Producer for a few community theater productions. We have gathered various archival footage, have never-before-seen film of John Berryman, and begun interviewing some of the artists and musicians that have been inspired by Berryman. And some of the premier Berryman scholars. We were able to complete a short film for the UMN Conference "Berryman at 100" in October 2014--which was the 100th anniversary of his birth.

Connect with us on Facebook at

Rediscovering John Berryman

Special thanks to 
Minnesota State Arts Board
for the grant that helped us
to launch this project!
Al Milgrom is a fiscal year 2011 recipient of an Artist Initiative grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board. This activity is made possible in part by a grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board, through an appropriation by the Minnesota State Legislature and by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.     

Website Builder