In this sense Williams is a presiding presence for Berry’s Collected Poems 1957–1982, although its most achieved poems, formally, differ from Williams’s in being occasional. That is, their occasions—a tree planting, a dance, a graveyard, the fear of love, an anniversary—open the experience that evoked them into a ceremonial dimension of recurrence whose formal traditions, like ethnobotany’s, are shaped by many minds to channel perennial understandings. This can either overwhelm and falsify the poetry with preconceptions, or lift it into the light of the form evoked. All Berry’s poems to Tanya—taken together, an incomparable poetry of married love—stand in this perennial light. His Vietnam War poems survive (like Robert Duncan’s) by balancing the gravity of their matter against the evoked weight and pressures of formal tradition.
Megrim is a flat fish that resembles a sole. But try and cook it like a sole, meunière, say, lightly coated in flour and pan fried in butter, and you won't end up with the delight described by Julia Child on her first meal just off the boat in Normandy. Instead, top a piece of its filet with a mint leaf, roll it in filo pastry, and deep fry it for less than a minute, and you'll pay tribute to its tender flesh, the crunch of the filo pastry, and the fresh mint that brings a pleasant contrast to the melting texture of the fish.
The creation is from Parisian chef Gaël Orieux. Whether or not Orieux ever heard of Wendell Berry's maxim "eating is an agricultural act," the way he works as a chef is a concrete illustration of it, and it is a reminder that changing our food system is not only about producers and consumers and how to reconnect them. It's also about chefs.
Counterpoint has reissued Mr. Berry's 1970 poetry volume, Farming: A Hand Book.
The book contains all fifty-five poems from the original volume (and many of the "Mad Farmer" poems—though not the famous "Manifesto"). Also included is the play "Bringer of Water" concerning the courtship of Hannah and Nathan Coulter. Of this play, Mr. Berry notes that he has "revised it further."
So, please run off to your local, independent bookstore and acquire a copy. You won't regret it.
As we approach the tenth anniversary of the September 11th attacks, it may be useful to revisit Mr. Berry's "Thoughts in the Presence of Fear" and a number of related pieces by the editors of Orion Magazine. Go HERE.