Berryman spent his 1962-3 sabbatical from the University of Minnesota teaching at Brown University. Kaplan, Trueblood and Freifeld were undergraduate women in his composition class. He came down hard on them, and expresses guilt about it here. Kaplan was incredibly bright, even by Brown standards; Trueblood was petite and aristocratic; Riva Freifeld was tall, the daughter of the Canadian ambassador. None of them were about to put up with abuse that Berryman dished out when he came to class drunk, which was most of the time. Liberation was beginning, and you can see traces of it in this poem. As usual, Berryman is writing about what it felt like to live through the intellectual history of his time; the result is a mixture of news reports and biographical events. Read the Ball Poem. Berryman said that all of his subsequent poems flow from and relate to that poem's theme of loss.