In our previous post we examined the reference to Jack Kerouac's novel On the Road in The Hold Steady song Stuck Between Stations, found on their 2006 album Boys and Girls in America. But there's another literary reference in the song that focuses on Minneapolis poet John Berryman.
Berryman's 1964 volume 77 Dream Songs won the Pulitzer Prize (it was later combined with a second collection, His Toy, His Story, His Rest and published in one volume called The Dream Songs). His later works were less well received, however, and he suffered from depression and alcoholism. (He was drunk and exhausted, but he was critically acclaimed and respected, according to the lyrics.) In 1972, he committed suicide by jumping off the Washington Avenue Bridge, which spans the Mississippi River in Minneapolis. The song alludes to this event:
The devil and John Berryman
Took a walk together
They ended up on Washington
Talking to the river...
And a few lines later:
That was the night that we thought John Berryman could fly.
But he didn't
So he died.
Berryman's own father, a banker, had killed himself when the poet was twelve years old.