Welcome

In the sidebar to your right under Content, you will find pages with many resources related to Mr. Berry's work.

This site is not owned, operated or sanctioned by Mr. Berry, whose disapproval of computer technology is well-documented. "I hear that I have a website, but I didn't do those things. My instrument is a pencil."

The one person responsible for all of this is me, Br. Tom Murphy (btwb@brtom.org). I am not a personal friend or employee of Mr. Berry and am thus not able to arrange interviews or appearances by him.

Please support the work of The Berry Center: "like" them at Facebook and follow at Twitter. And whenever possible, please support your local, independent bookstores.

Thanks for stopping by.


Berry Center Bookstore to celebrate new Wendell Berry publication

Celebrating the release of the book 'The Art of Loading Brush: New Agrarian Writings' by Wendell Berry and new Larkspur Press titles with readings and art exhibit.

The Berry Center will be hosting its 4th annual open house Saturday, November 11th from 11:00am-5:00pm. This year’s celebration will feature:

• The world premiere of “For the Hog Killing, 1979,” - a collection of photographs by Tanya Berry

• Readings by Kentucky authors, including - Wendell Berry, Bobbie Ann Mason, Ed McClanahan, Gray Zeitz, Frank X Walker, Frederick Smock, Erik Reece, Richard Taylor, Mary Ann Taylor-Hall, Maurice Manning, Nana Lampton, Leatha Kendrick, Sue Richards, Trina Pieffer, and Leslie Shane

• Gray Zeitz, Leslie Shane, and the release of new Larkspur Press books

• Vermont composer and musician, Brendan Taaffe, performing

• Bookbinder Gabrielle Fox with her book, "Larkspur Press: Forty Years of Making Letterpress Books In A Rural Kentucky Community 1974-2014"

• Rollin’ Ruby’s food truck

• Refreshments, books, and unique gifts in The Bookstore at The Berry Center.


The Berry Center is located at 111 South Main Street in New Castle, KY. Street parking is available, and a municipal lot is located behind the Center on Carters Alley. For more information about The Berry Center’s Annual Open House, please contact bookstore manager Virginia Aguilar at virginiaberryaguilar@berrycenter.org or 502-743-1820.


Solving the Wendell Berry/Ralph Ellison quotation mystery

Dear Quote Investigator: The nature writer and activist Wendell Berry has been credited with a statement about knowing one’s place in the world:

If you don’t know where you are, you don’t know who you are.

Yet, this saying has also been ascribed to the novelist and critic Ralph Ellison. Would you please help clarify this situation?

Quote Investigator: In 1952 Ralph Ellison published the landmark novel “Invisible Man”. During one key episode in the book an old gentleman approaches the narrator to ask directions. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI:

Perhaps to lose a sense of where you are implies the danger of losing a sense of who you are. That must be it, I thought—to lose your direction is to lose your face. So here he comes to ask his direction from the lost, the invisible. Very well, I’ve learned to live without direction. Let him ask.

As the forgetful gentleman approaches, the narrator recognizes him as Mr. Norton who has asked for directions in the past, and the two converse:

“Because, Mr. Norton, if you don’t know where you are, you probably don’t know who you are. So you came to me out of shame. You are ashamed, now aren’t you?”

“Young man, I’ve lived too long in this world to be ashamed of anything. Are you light-headed from hunger? How do you know my name?”

Read the complete article at Quote Investigator.


Reviewing "Wendell Berry and Higher Education"

“When professors tell their students the wrong stories, stories of heroic success rather than quotidian faithfulness, it reinforces the boomer mentality of the broader culture,” write Baker and Bilbro. Such narratives, according to Berry, convince “good young people … that if they have an ordinary job, if they work with their hands, if they are farmers or housewives or mechanics or carpenters, they are no good.”

Baker and Bilbro contrast the heady, aspirational virtues of modern academia with what they call “the sticker arts”: the arts of “right livelihood” that focus on stewardship, sustainability, specificity, and love. In so doing, they aren’t just trying to convince students to stay home—they are also encouraging them to make a home wherever they may land. After all, as both Baker and Bilbro acknowledge themselves, Spring Arbor is not their original hometown. Although their vision is to cultivate students who can remain rooted in place, they are also aware that many may move away. But the virtues they present here—stewardship, sustainability, love, loyalty—should not only be applied to our birthplaces. They are deeply needed everywhere. Anywhere boomers have ravaged a community, seeking only to consume and procure, stickers are needed to foster healing and wholeness.

As our country increasingly becomes a fractured republic, a nation divided and splintered, it is such virtues that are most likely to bring wholeness and healing back. “Berry remains convinced that genuine change begins locally rather than in the halls of centralized power,” note Baker and Bilbro. And it is only the sort of vision this volume provides that can bring such change back to the communities that so desperately need it.

Read the complete article by Gracy Olmstead at The American Conservative.


Wendell Berry to deliver keynote address at SouthWord 2017

On November 3, 2017, Wendell Berry will deliver the Keynote Address at SouthWord 2017: A Literary Feast, to be held at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. The event is hosted by Southern Lit Alliance (So Lit), a literary arts organization in Chattanooga, Tennessee that was founded in 1952 with a Ford Foundation grant.

See the Schedule of Events HERE

See Ticket Information HERE.

See an overview of the Feast at The Chattanoogan.


Wendell Berry and others inspire songs

The Vision was inspired by a powerful poem written by Wendell Berry that speaks deeply to my feelings about the earth, in all of its destruction and possibility. Upon meeting Wendell two times at his farm, I was amazed at how comfortable I was sitting with him and his amazing wife Tanya. I enjoyed his simplicity and how he cuts to the quick with no hesitancy or apology.

I looked this poem over and again the words that would become a song came to me and I arranged it without much effort. I usually channel poetry arrangements, but since Wendell is alive and well, I wanted to honor him and what I perceived to be his intention as clearly as I could. I did work on it more than other poems, nonetheless, it pretty much arranged itself.

I tend to select poems, melodies, and arrangements that are complex and a bit gut-wrenching and hard to sing. This one takes a lot of air! It also takes a bit of courage to sing because of the state of the world. I love the harmonies John and I do on this one.

Listen to the music and read more by Donna and John Paul Wright at The Thread in the Quilt.


The amazing journey of a thought from Wendell Berry

Dear Quote Investigator: In my opinion the most thoughtful and poignant quotation about the environment is the following:

We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children

No one seems to know the origin of this saying. Perhaps it was constructed in recent decades, or perhaps it encapsulates the wisdom of previous centuries. Could you attempt to trace this quotation?

Quote Investigator: In 1971 the influential environmental activist Wendell Berry published a book titled “The Unforeseen Wilderness: An Essay on Kentucky’s Red River Gorge”. Berry emphasized the desirability of preserving natural areas and adapting a long-range perspective about the environment. Boldface has been added to excerpts:

We can learn about it from exceptional people of our own culture, and from other cultures less destructive than ours. I am speaking of the life of a man who knows that the world is not given by his fathers, but borrowed from his children; who has undertaken to cherish it and do it no damage, not because he is duty-bound, but because he loves the world and loves his children…

Quote Investigator then proceeds to trace and cite uses of the quotation down through the years and across some fairly obscure sources. Follow the entire journey at The Quote Investigator.


On Wendell Berry, the Church, and the economy

Wendell Berry, in his essay God and Country (in What People Are For, 1988):

Organized Christianity seems, in general, to have made peace with "the economy" by divorcing itself from economic issues, and this, I think, has proved to be a disaster, both religious and economic. The reason for this, on the side of religion, is suggested by the adjective "organized." It is clearly possible that, in the condition of the world as the world now is, organization can force upon an institution a character that is alien or even antithetical to it. The organized church comes immediately under compulsion to think of itself, and identify itself to the world, not as an institution synonymous with its truth and its membership, but as a hodgepodge of funds, properties, projects, and offices, all urgently requiring economic support. The organized church makes peace with a destructive economy and divorces itself from economic issues because it is economically compelled to do so. Like any other public institution so organized, the organized church is dependent on the "economy"; it cannot survive apart from those economic practices that its truth forbids and that its vocation is to correct. If it comes to a choice between the extermination of the fowls of the air and the lilies of the field and the extermination of a building fund, the organized church will elect - indeed, has already elected - to save the building fund. The irony is compounded and made harder to bear by the fact that the building fund can be preserved by crude applications of money, but the fowl of the air and the lilies of the field can be preserved only by true religion, by the practice of a proper love and respect for them as the creatures of God.

Read the full, brief, but provocative thoughts of Jonathan Melton on this Wendell Berry quotation at The Patience of Trees.


Wendell Berry cited on William Carlos Williams

To Wendell Berry, whose life has been spent in the very different environs of rural Kentucky, Williams’s intense rootedness in place is a major part of his example and legacy. He praises “Williams’ lifelong effort to come to terms with, to imagine, and to be of use to his native and chosen place.” This “local adaptation,” as Berry calls it, has more than literary implications: in the course of the book, it becomes an ecological, economic, and political creed.

Fundamental to this interpretation of Williams is the idea that he and his poetry benefited from being so closely tied to Rutherford. “As a part of the necessary conversation of a local culture,” Berry writes, “poetry becomes more urgently important than it can ever be as a high-cultural or academic specialty.”

Read the complete essay by Adam Kirsch at The New York Review of Books.


On Wendell Berry and Orthodox Christianity

Wendell Berry confesses the Christian faith, but it is nevertheless an easy task to find criticism of Christianity in his writings.  In one place he even suggests that Buddhism is superior to Christianity in how it approaches man’s relationship to the creation:  ‘Buddhism, for example, is certainly a religion that could guide us toward a right respect for the natural world, our fellow humans, and our fellow creatures.  I owe a considerable debt myself to Buddhism and Buddhists’ (‘Christianity and the Survival of Creation’, p. 306).  He has stuck with Christianity, though, but not, seemingly, because its teachings contain more of the truth than Buddhism or any other religion, but mainly because he was born into it.  It is his ‘native religion, for better or worse’ (ibid.).  Such statements are no doubt a cause of consternation to the tradition-minded folk of the South, who see Christianity, agrarianism, and the South as being closely intertwined, if not inseparable.  What can be done, then, to heal this rift that exists between Mr Berry, Christianity, and his native land.

The first thing that can be done is to realize that the Christianity Mr Berry is at odds with is not the genuine Christianity found in the Orthodox Church, the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church, but rather its Roman Catholic and Protestant forms (what we shall call Western Christianity from here on), which, like other sects that have gone into schism from the Orthodox Church, like the Nestorians, Monophysites, or Iconoclasts, have added to and/or taken away from the Apostolic Tradition she retains unimpaired.  When he says, for instance,

Throughout the five hundred years since Columbus’s first landfall in the Bahamas, the evangelist has walked beside the conqueror and the merchant, too often blandly assuming that their causes were the same.  Christian organizations, to this day, remain largely indifferent to the rape and plunder of the world and of its traditional cultures.  It is hardly too much to say that most Christian organizations are as happily indifferent to the ecological, cultural, and religious implications of industrial economics as are most industrial organizations.  The certified Christian seems just as likely as anyone else to join the military-industrial conspiracy to murder Creation (ibid, pgs. 305-6).

he is speaking of Western Christianity (as we shall see).

Read the complete article by Walt Garlington at Confiteri.