Books: Helpmate

POETS IN THEIR YOUTH: A MEMOIR

by Eileen Simpson

Random House; 272 pages; $15.50

"What the hell is happiness?" John Berryman once asked his first wife, the author of this memoir. He added another question: "Should a poet seek it?" For Berryman and many other poets of his generation, the answer seems to have been no. They did not flame out young, like Keats and Shelley. But few of them enjoyed their later years, and they are all gone now: Berryman, Robert Lowell, Randall Jarrell, Dylan Thomas, Theodore Roethke and Delmore Schwartz. They left behind some...

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