"A speech by HRH The Prince of Wales to the Future for Food Conference, Georgetown University, Washington DC"
Blog Watch: "Coffee with Wendell Berry"

Blog Watch: Wendell Berry in Seattle

The lights dimmed. The introductions and announcements were said. Mr Wendell Berry walked on stage and the welcome was enthusiastic. There was no doubt that the audience in attendance was well acquainted with his writings and influence. Most of those in attendance were aged 50+ but every so often, you’d see one of us youngins sticking out among the crowd. One of the first things he said was, “With all of you here, its hard to see what you need with me!”  The humility was evident and I settled into my seat to glean words from a wise old man from whom much can be learned!

He proceeded to read several of his poems and a short story. He said, “I’m gonna read a few poems… its gonna be a prose sandwich”. At several points, he paused before reading the next poem. One of those times, the audience broke out clapping. He remarked, “I wasn’t waiting for you to do that. Just interjecting a little silence.” Everyone laughed. Some of his writings were meant to evoke sadness and compassion, and other snippets brought the whole house laughing. Like our traveling companion shared, his short story (I can’t remember the titles) was about no one I knew, yet it could be anyone we know. It was a story of life, marriage, raising children, living on the farm, taking care of the land, selling the farm, grief, and letting go.

via theartisanhome.org


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This event was as wonderful as I knew it would be. Somehow I'd forgotten how funny he is. I've written to Seattle Arts and Lectures to see if the evening was recorded somehow. The question and answer section at the end was especially good.

The first poem he read was the letter below ("A Letter" quoted in full from 'Leavings')

Dear Ed,

I dreamed that you and I were sent to Hell.
The place we went to was not fiery
or cold, was not Dante’s Hell or Milton’s,
but was, even so, as true a Hell as any.
It was a place unalterably public
in which crowds of people were rushing
in weary frenzy this way and that,
as when classes change in a university
or at quitting time in a city street,
except that this place was wider far
than we could see, and the crowd as large
as the place. In that crowd every one
was alone. Every one was hurrying.
Nobody was sitting down. Nobody
was standing around. All were rushing
so uniformly frantic, that to average them
would have stood them still. It was a place
deeply disturbed. We thought, you and I,
that we might get across and come out
on the other side, if we stayed together,
only if we stayed together. The other side
would be a clear day in a place we would know.
We joined hands and hurried along,
snatching each other through small openings
in the throng. But the place was full
of dire distractions, dire satisfactions.
We were torn apart, and I found you
breakfasting upon a huge fried egg.
I snatched you away: “Ed! Come on!”
And then, still susceptible, I met
a lady whose luster no hell could dim.
She took all my thought. But then,
in the midst of my delight, my fear
returned: “Oh! Damn it all! Where’s Ed?”
I fled, searching, and found you again.
We went on together. How this ended
I do not know. I woke before it could end.
But, old friend, I want to tell you
how fine it was, what a durable
nucleus of joy it gave my fright
to force that horrid way with you, how
heavenly, let us say, in spite of Hell.

Do you want to know why
you were distracted by an egg, and I
by a beautiful lady? That’s Hell.

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