Daniel Berrigan

1921 –

Daniel Berrigan, SJ, was born on May 9, 1921, in Virginia, Minnesota. He earned a BA from St. Andrew-on-Hudson, a Jesuit Seminary in Hyde Park, New Jersey, as well as an MA in 1952 from Woodstock College in Baltimore, Maryland. He was ordained that same year, on June 21, 1952, and continued his studies at the Gregorian University in Rome, Italy, and at Maison le Colombiere in Paray le Monial, France.

Berrigan’s debut poetry collection, Time Without Number (Macmillan), was awarded the 1957 Lamont Poetry Prize, given by the Academy of American Poets to aid in the “discovery and encouragement of new poetic genius.” (Today this prize is the James Laughlin Award). He went on to publish fourteen other books of poetry, including Tulips in the Prison Yard: Selected Poems (Dedalus Press, 2009) and And the Risen Bread: Selected and New Poems, 1957–1997 (Fordham University Press, 1998).

Marianne Moore said that Berrigan’s poems seem “as much revealed as written.” Berrigan said of poetry, “I think that to put it very simply, poetry worthy of the name is telling us what life is like. What is it like? And that separates it from every other branch of human understanding and knowledge.”

Berrigan was also known for his work as a Jesuit priest and for his life-long devotion to political activism and pacifism. Most famously, Berrigan and his brother, Philip, led a group of Catholic activists to burn hundreds of draft records in Catonsville, Maryland, in 1968. In the New York Times, Daniel Lewis notes that his “defiant protests helped shape the tactics of opposition to the Vietnam War and landed him in prison.”

Berrigan published over thirty books of prose in addition to his poetry, including works of social criticism, autobiography, and theology. He also taught or ran programs at Columbia University, Fordham University, Le Moyne College, Yale University, and many other academic institutions. He died on April 30, 2016, in New York City.