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December 2012

Wendell Berry awarded in Tulsa, December 7-8

When author Wendell Berry comes to town to accept the Tulsa Library Trust's 2012 Peggy V. Helmerich Distinguished Author Award on Dec. 7, he will bring with him his reputation as a principled presence in American letters, as well as that of being an outspoken critic of industrialized farming.

The award, which consists of a $40,000 cash prize and an engraved crystal book, gives formal recognition, on behalf of the Tulsa County community, to internationally acclaimed authors who have written a distinguished body of work and made a major contribution to the field of literature and letters.

Berry will speak at the black tie awards dinner and will give a free public presentation at 10:30 a.m. Dec. 8 at Central Library, Fourth Street and Denver Avenue.


Blog Watch: Wendell Berry on hope for food's future

Berry, who dislikes leaving home, came to New York with his wife Tanya and his daughter Mary Beth, who directs the Berry Center, to accept a leadership award from the James Beard Foundation and speak at the foundation’s conference about trust in the food supply. “Every farmers market is a sign of hope. Every CSA is a sign of hope. Every chef using local ingredients is a sign of hope. Every garden grown in town is necessary to better farming in Iowa. It’s all very encouraging, but the work is far from done,” he told Langholtz and I, perhaps hoping to influence Edible magazine’s editorial tone across the nation. Berry said he was optimistic since people seem to “understanding what I’m saying” in a way he couldn’t have imagined in the 1960s.


Wendell Berry on the Diane Rehm Show 2

Kentucky author, farmer and environmentalist Wendell Berry was on The Diane Rehm Show yesterday to talk about his new book “A Place in Time.” It’s a collection of 20 stories about life in the fictional small town of Port William. Besides discussing and reading from the book, Berry also talked about the relationship between a land and people, and his views on energy and the environment.


This article posts a number of significant quotes from the show ... if you are pressed for time.

Wendell Berry on the Diane Rehm Show

Wendell Berry received the National Humanities Medal in 2010 for his achievement as a poet, novelist, farmer and conservationist. He summarized his philosophy in this year’s Jefferson Lecture, titled “It All Turns On Affection.” For more than 50 years, Berry has been writing about life in a fictional small town called Port William. Its families are closely bound by marriage, kinship, friendship, history and memory. They help each other with the hard work of farming and take pleasure in the telling of shared stories. In a new collection, characters age and pass on, but their tales of love, joy and sorrow live on.


Wendell Berry on The Fifty-Year Farm Bill

The uplands of my home country in north central Kentucky are sloping and easily eroded, dependent for safekeeping upon year-round cover of perennial plants. Their best agricultural use is for the production of grazing animals, with most of the land in pastures and hayfields, and perhaps 5 to 10 percent plowed and row-cropped in any year. This was the practice of the best farmers of that country 50 or 60 years ago.

The land husbandry there, as elsewhere, has been in decline since the end of World War II, as agriculture has become more and more industrial, and more and more of the farming people have taken urban jobs or moved away.

But recently and almost suddenly, as ethanol production has driven up the price of grain, our fragile uplands have been invaded by corn and soybeans. Whole farms, with sloping fields that have been in grass as long as I can remember, have been herbicided and planted to annual crops that, because of the drastic reduction of the number of farmers, will not be protected in winter by full-sown cover crops.

This is agriculture determined entirely by the market, and limited only by the capacities of machines and chemicals. The entirely predictable ruination of land and people is the result of degenerate science and the collapse of local farming cultures.


Read the whole article at The Atlantic.

Wendell Berry's words and David Brunner's music

I have just been made aware of the work of David Brunner, composer and conductor. Dr. Brunner has composed music around several pieces by Mr. Berry and is apparently working on commissions for several others.

"The Wheel" is the title poem from the collection of that name. "The Circles of Our Lives" also comes from The Wheel and is a setting of "Song (for Guy Davenport)"—a.k.a "Song (4)" in New Collected Poems. "We clasp the hands" is taken from section IV of the essay "Healing" in What Are People For?"

Exsultate!, the Venice (FL) Chorale, has commissioned Brunner to compose new works based on the Sabbath Poems, to be called "Songs for a Timbered Choir." He has already produced one, "A Timbered Choir" based on "Slowly, slowly, they return," (I, 1986).

Some of this music can be sampled HERE at David Brunner's site.

Blog Watch: Michael Pollan's Thoughts on Wendell Berry

I don’t think many of the young people coming to this movement fully realize the extent to which the national conversation we are now having about food and farming in America is a conversation Wendell Berry helped to start some four decades ago. He was talking, and writing, way back then about the folly of growing food with petroleum instead of sunlight; about the perils of monoculture, and about how all who would eat are implicated in agriculture. Forty years ago, he was already connecting the dots between the health of the soil, the health of the people who ate from that soil, and the health of their communities.


Blog Watch: "Wendell Berry and the Body"

I’ve been teaching Wendell Berry’s essay, “Health is Membership,” in a medical school elective, “Literature and Medicine,” for over a decade, so I have reason to reread it often. Some day, perhaps, I’ll exhaust what it has to teach me, but that day has yet to arrive. On this, my latest reading, I’m struck by the seriousness with which Mr. Berry takes the human body. He’s certainly more serious about it than many in my profession.


This is the third in a series of articles that reflect on Mr. Berry's essay "Health is Membership" (originally collected in Another Turn of the Crank, 1996). I hope you can find the time to read each of them ... and all that follow.

Villanova U. honors Wendell Berry

November 13, 2012
4:00-5:30 PM
Villanova University Connolley Center
Free and Open to the Public

The Center for Peace & Justice Education presents the Peace Award to Wendell Berry.  He is a poet, author, cultural critic, conservationist, and farmer.  Often referred to as a ’21st century Henry David Thoreau’, he has used pen and hand to teach us about our responsibilities for the land and for one another.