Wendell Berry's "The Farm" republished and reviewed

The newly released book The Farm by Wendell Berry is a worthwhile purchase simply for its beauty. A trade reprint of the hard-to-find letterpress edition by Kentucky’s Larkspur Press, this new book retains the elegance of the original in both its design and its monochrome drawings by Carolyn Whitesel.

The sole content of the book is the long poem that gives the book its title, which is at once a depiction of a farm and its workings (presumably based on Berry’s own farm), and rich wisdom on how to run a farm sustainably – from maintaining woodlands to cultivating cornfields to keeping a garden.

The intermingling of biodiverse relationships between humans, land, plants, and animals in this poem, is reminiscent of what I experienced on my grandparents’ small-to-medium-sized Iowa farm a generation ago. Berry’s vision of the farm, while frank about the intensive labor it requires (“There is no end to work — /… / One job completed shows / Another to be done.”), is compelling in the image of farm life that it conjures.

Read the complete review by C. Christopher Smith at The Englewood Review of Books.


A review of "The Essential Wendell Berry"

Agrarianism is the theme he returns to with great regularity and is also the subject of his best-known book, the 1977 classic The Unsettling of America, a compressed version of which is included in this collection. A good part of Berry’s career has involved excoriating mechanized, chemicalized mega-farming as a brutal, life-threatening assault that kills the soil and sends it down the river, guts farming communities, renders moot our relationship to animals and sky and other people, and widens a dualism between us and the earth that is ruining our health, our minds, our ability to live satisfying lives, and the American (and global) culture.

These works are mostly about small-town America, and mostly set on Berry’s farm at Lane’s Landing, once a riverboat stop on the Kentucky River near Port Royal, Kentucky. But not one word stoops to smug nostalgia. He is instead trying to prove that science and economics happen in a place: he draws endlessly and non-repetitively on the deep well of the lived truth of farm life, which delivers up sweet, clear lines of poetry and local lore and a kind of immediate authenticity.

That authority is the reason we read Wendell Berry. When he tells us precisely what ails us as a nation, that a “Faustian economics” of “corporate fundamentalism” fuels a “world-ending fire” of limitless consumerism that is our ruin, we believe him. We want to scream it from the rooftops. But he goes a step further. He doesn’t leave the question begged, but answers it:

Small solutions, unrelentingly practical, that will be made by individuals in relation to small parcels of land.

Read all of "How to Fight the Fire" by Dean Kuipers at Los Angeles Review of Books.


Library of America will publish Wendell Berry essays in April 2019

Wendell Berry
What I Stand On: The Collected Essays of Wendell Berry 1969–2017 (two volumes)
Jack Shoemaker, editor
Volume 1: Essays 1969–1990
Library of America Series #316 / ISBN 978-159853-606-5
Volume 2: Essays 1993–2017
Library of America Series #317 / ISBN 978-159853-608-9
Boxed set: ISBN 978-159853-610-2
April 2019

See the complete Spring roster of Library of America titles HERE.


Wendell Berry, Jayber Crow, Bookstore Closings, Grief

Jayber Crow broke my heart in exactly the way I needed it to be broken, allowing my changing-times sadness and confusion to flow.

Jayber’s growth of soul as he narrates his life from 1914 to 1986 (being Port William’s barber for 32 of those years) grew on me.

If you’ve been grieving the losses that have come with a modernized, technologically driven age, Wendell Berry can’t get the gifts of the past back for you, but he can help you honor them with an unsentimental grief.

He can help your soul to grow through facing those losses with an honest remembering and gratitude. He can help you consider what changes you might make in order live at least a little closer to what you believe.

Berry can even help you see your need to forgive yourself along with everyone else who, in greater or lesser degrees, allowed the lessening of localism and the desecration of the land to happen.

Read all of  "Becoming Rememberers: How Wendell Berry Helps Us Grieve Our Time’s Tragic Tradeoffs" by Peggy Haslar at Sparrowfare.


Larkspur Press publishes Wendell Berry's Sabbaths 2016

Mr. Gray Zeitz's long-running letterpress project at Larkspur Press has delivered another volume of recent poems, Sabbaths 2016. Like so many other Larkspur/Berry editions, the book includes several wood engravings by Wesley Bates, whose work was featured in the recent film Look & See: A Portrait of Wendell Berry.

The fifteen Sabbath poems here include "What Passes, What Remains," a longer narrative poem that was first published in The Art of Loading Brush (Counterpoint, 2017). Other poems from 2016 have been published in Oxford American, Spring 2018.

See Sabbaths 2016 and other Larkspur titles HERE.


The Wendell Berry Catalogue from Counterpoint

Counterpoint Press has published their catalogue of the complete works of Wendell Berry. It is a pdf file that contains not just descriptions of the individual titles but also includes brief notes by Jack Shoemaker, Alice Waters, and independent booksellers Kris Kleindienst (Left Bank Books, St. Louis) and Michael Boggs (Carmichaels Bookstore, Louisville).

Shoemaker suggests a reason for Mr. Berry's ongoing appeal to readers:

Wendell never preaches. He simply speaks from the heart a truth he knows too well. I think that’s why over the years we have sold tens of thousands of his titles to young people. They know there is something rotten in what we have done to nature, what we continue to do, and they are looking for someone who can articulate and focus that feeling. They leave one of his readings or talks realizing that this magical, mystical force we call nature is simply a house in which we are guests—and we must care for it because there are new guests arriving daily.

Visit Counterpoint Press. See The Wendell Berry Catalogue (pdf).


Reading Wendell Berry and Bernd Heinrich from an urban p.o.v.

The roots of the two writers’ differences are regional and occupational. Berry is a farmer in Kentucky; Heinrich is a scientist who lives in Maine. Accordingly, the former writes about cultivation and conservation while the latter writes about discovery, the process of going from question to answer. But centered in the work of both men is the value of practice, study, and devotion. Their essays demand that attention be paid to what is around and underfoot, what is all too easily taken for granted. Berry says this explicitly and often. Heinrich implies it. Each of their essays, by virtue of its attention and clarity, says, look at this, how could you not?

Though Berry’s essays are often knotty moral arguments and Heinrich’s educational, reading the collections side-by-side felt like a kind of escapism, if not in the way that word is usually applied. They are not, strictly speaking, relaxing. However, when so much of what I read, think, and talk about on a daily basis is directly wrapped up in whatever fresh crisis our president has precipitated, reading deeply considered work that is focused on the world as it grows from the ground is a genuine respite. Both Heinrich and Berry require my full attention long after I’ve finished reading; like the practices of cultivation and scientific study they write about, reading their essays is a slow process that rewards focus and patience.

Read all of "I Don't Spend Much Time in Nature, But I Love Reading About It" by Bradley Babendir at Literary Hub.


Review of new Wendell Berry collection

The World-Ending Fire: The Essential Wendell Berry is a selection of 31 essays spanning five decades of his works, and it could not have come at a better time as our nation thrashes about in search of a voice of reason. Who better than Berry to explain to us “who we are, where we are, and what we must do to live” (“The Way of Ignorance,” 2004)? The essays are not presented in chronological order, nor even in any kind of thematic progression; rather, the collection, arranged by Paul Kingsnorth of County Galway, Ireland, rhapsodizes in a kind of orchestral composition of rhetorical movements – from ethos to pathos to logos and back again.

Berry is not confined to the subjects related to his bailiwick i.e., agrarian culture, and is utterly unafraid of any topic that sticks in his craw, as only a humble “apprentice of creation” and a writer without institutional affiliations can be. He lays into quite an assortment of subjects from economics to feminism to education to civil disobedience, and a whole host of topics in between, each one a treasure of insight and strategic action.

Read "'The World-Ending Fire' collects 31 essential Wendell Berry essays" by Richard Horan at The Christian Science Monitor.


New study of Wendell Berry due in January 2019

In Virtues of Renewal: Wendell Berry’s Sustainable Forms, Jeffrey Bilbro combines textual analysis and cultural criticism to explain how Berry’s literary forms encourage readers to practice virtues of renewal. While the written word alone cannot enact change, Bilbro asserts that Berry’s poetry, essays, and fiction can inspire people to, as Berry writes, “practice resurrection.” Bilbro examines the distinct, yet symbiotic, features of these three genres, demonstrating the importance of the humanities in supporting tenable economies. He uses Berry’s pieces to suggest the need for more robust language for discussing conservation, ecology, and the natural—and regenerative—process of death. Bilbro additionally translates Berry’s literature to a wider audience, putting him in conversation with philosophers and theologians such as Ivan Illich, Willie Jennings, Charles Taylor, and Augustine.

See complete information at The University Press of Kentucky.


Nick Offerman on Wendell Berry's new Library of America volume

Wendell Berry’s works are, perhaps, the literary equivalent of one of the farm tables from his own stories, laden with robust dishes of every stripe, from savory to sweet to salty, all to be washed down with spring water, lemonade and buttermilk, or perhaps a little firewater if our luck holds. And the analogy doesn’t end there, either, because that multi-plattered feast is surrounded by smells, by raucous laughter and talk, roosters and roof-drumming raindrops, or at other times by silence, solemn and gravid.

The gift of Mr. Berry’s yarn-spinning is in how his work delves deeper and deeper, proceeding to tell you about the origins of the table itself, complete with the details of its earnest maker, as well as which joints are sound, and which might eventually give out due not to any fault of the craftsperson but to an unseen pitch pocket hiding inside one of the large stretcher tenons, weakening the joint with a natural, hollow cavity. And he’s still not done because he will then proceed to delineate the history of the oak tree from which the table’s boards were hewn, decades ago, and what was going on in that particular corner of the woodlot the day that tree was felled.

The table linens get the same treatment, as does the salt cellar, and . . . well, I imagine I’ve made my point. Attempting to apprehend the scope of his vision leaves me literally slack-jawed, tuckered out, and dumb.

Read all of Mr. Offerman's thoughts at Library of America.