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March 2014

Wendell Berry cited on Marriage

In the United States we equate an ordinary life with a failed one. Wendell Berry describes the modern marriage in Feminism, the Body and the Machine as, “an intimate ‘relationship’ involving (ideally) two successful careerists in the same bed...a sort of private political system in which rights and interests must be constantly asserted and defended. Marriage in other words, has now taken the form of a divorce.” Berry lives on his family’s farm in rural Kentucky, and his point is simple: If you always have to argue about who does what, you will be unhappy. If everyone just picks up a shovel and does their part, you can do great things. It is not possible to be a good co-worker, spouse or friend if you are a narcissist.

via America Magazine


Blog Watch: Discovering Agrarianism through Wendell Berry

When I found Berry I realized the nascent doubts I had about these causes. It's not that I felt lied to (full disclosure: I still think global warming, fossil fuel dependency, and world hunger are problems), but I realized that what environmentalism lacked was a coherent vision for improving the situation that didn't involve legislation and buying green foods--both of which felt like cop outs to me. This is because environmentalism is an "-ism" and as such it is concerned with solving for form rather than dealing with the particulars of a local environment. I'll let Berry explain:

A typical example of industrial heroism is to found in the present rush of experts to "solve the problem of world hunger"--which is rarely defined except as a "world problem" known, in industrial heroic jargon, as "the world food problematique." As is characteristic of industrial heroism, the professed intention here is entirely salutary: nobody should starve. The trouble is that "world hunger" is not a problem that can be solved by a "world solution." Except in a very limited sense, it is not an industrial problem, and industrial attempts to solve it--such as the "Green Revolution" and "Food for Peace"--have often had grotesque and destructive results. "The problem with world hunger" cannot be solved until it is understood and dealt with by local people as a multitude of local problems of ecology, agriculture, and culture. (Wendell Berry, "The Gift of Good Land")

via Playing Rooky


Citing Wendell Berry on the poetics of place

Yet at the same time, Beasley’s piece looks at region as the clay, and poet as the model. She quotes Richard Hugo, a poet of the Pacific Northwest, who once told a pupil, “Everybody’s a regional poet to some extent, but the region from which you write is merely the lens. The real region is you.”

Contrast this with the attitude of poet Wendell Berry, whose work seems to suggest that place is the shaper, and we are its clay. His works all center in an around a singly community which, in its tangled and sundry doings, created a rhythm of human relationship. Driving roots into community, living amongst others with constancy, is something different than living within region as mere lens.

Berry’s poetic living requires love: love for land, and for people. Without this love, it is very easy to escape into other territory—whether it be physical roaming, or an inner withdrawal. There is nothing to suggest in Beasley’s piece that place has a sort of authoritative cadence or order by which its inhabitants live. She writes of towns that have “been made great largely by its fixed stars, their immediate gaze and winking light.”

via The American Conservative