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Wendell Berry's Poetry and Art Collaboration, November 2014

I have just discovered word of a future poetry publication by Mr. Berry due out in November. It's called Terrapin. Here's the description found at Amazon (sorry, indie bookstore lovers, I can't find this info anywhere else):

Tom Pohrt spent years gathering those poems of Wendell Berry’s he imagined children might read and appreciate, making sketches to accompany his selection. Over the past several years a dialogue has evolved in which the poet has come to advise the illustrator on the natural history of the animals and plants seen so intimately in the poems. Then came the august book designer Dave Bullen, who has been designing the books of Wendell Berry for more than thirty years.

The resulting volume of 21 poems includes dozens of the sketches, drawings and watercolors in what amounts to a visual meditation on the poem they work to illustrate and is simply staggering in both its beauty and its meaning to those of us who remain lovers of the book as physical object.

In the full-color Terrapin we have not only a volume of staggering beauty but a consummate example of the collaborative effort that is fine bookmaking, the perfect gift for children, grandchildren or anyone who remains a lover of the book as physical object.

You may want to preorder your copy via IndieBound.

Wendell Berry, Affection, and Higher Education

The talk was titled "It All Turns on Affection." Rehearsing the well-known problems facing American society, Berry traced the roots of the current ecological crisis, the increasing corporatization and alienation of modern life, and even the recent financial crisis, to a loss of affection—a sentiment, Berry argued, that if properly cultivated can save us from ourselves.

The crux of Berry's argument is that people are limited beings. They will only properly understand and care for those things they can readily imagine, things that fall within the scope of individual experience. Our current predicament is mainly due to the scale of modern life and the disappearance of the circumstances in which imagination and sympathy, the wellsprings of affection, can flourish. Most importantly, Berry argues it is only on the basis of these local affections that “we see the need to grant a sort of preemptive sympathy to all the fellow members, the neighbors, with whom we share the world.” Berry is mainly concerned with the problems that accompany industrial capitalism. But over the last year I have considered how his ideas might apply to my own profession as an academic. In what follows I'd like to consider the ways in which an ethic of affection could reshape the world of higher education during a time of dizzying change.

Read much more at Vitae

Thinking about James Duke, Wendell Berry and Profit

In perceiving Duke as following in the tradition of the earlier robber barons, I have been influenced by writer Wendell Berry’s criticism of him in his 2012 Jefferson Lecture. Berry recounts how in the winter of 1907 his farming Kentucky grandparents planned to use the money they would obtain from selling their tobacco crop at auction in Louisville to pay some of their debts, but due to Duke’s American Tobacco Company monopoly on prices, his grandfather returned from Louisville “without a dime” of profit. Berry adds, “Thus began my father’s lifelong advocacy [as an eventual lawyer and farmer], later my brother’s and my own, and now my daughter’s and my son’s, for small farmers and for land-conserving economies.”

By 1907, thanks largely to Duke’s advertising and marketing efforts—in 1889 alone, he spent $800,000 on marketing—U. S. cigarette smoking began to take off, quadrupling in the last 15 years of the nineteenth century. In 1902, he joined with a British company to form the British American Tobacco.   “The Duke trust exerted an oppression that was purely economic, involving a mechanical indifference, the indifference of a grinder to what it grinds. It was not, that is to say, a political oppression. It did not intend to victimize its victims. It simply followed its single purpose of the highest possible profit, and ignored the ‘side effects.’”

via LA Progressive

Blog Watch: Appreciating Wendell Berry's Sabbaths

The breadth and depth of Berry’s concerns startle me, and do the best thing poetry can do—make me pay attention to every speck of life around me, and make me appreciate what I otherwise take for granted. Though I confess using This Day as a devotional of-sorts lately, the collection’s musicality on the tongue reminds of nothing so much as the Psalms. In this sense, they are prayers, Berry’s attempts to address God directly. They share the rhythmic beauty, melancholy, riotous joy, and variety of modes of the King James Version, with which Berry is intimately familiar.

Read it all at Quiet Bubble

Thoughts on Wendell Berry

A visitor to this site, Harry Holdorf, has shared these thoughts:

It’s a hackneyed cliché that great poets, writers, thinkers, are seldom recognized by their contemporaries. Cultures are so caught up in their own little dioramas, the bigger pictures often pass by unseen. Perhaps future generations will recognize Wendell Berry as the greatest poet, writer, thinker of our time. 

Wendell’s spent much of his eighty years being FOR what our whole culture’s AGAINST: small-farm organic agriculture, with an extremely close, sustainable connection to the land. He’s written dozens of books, hundreds of poems, hundreds of essays, received much recognition, continuously crusaded against strip mining and mountaintop removal; prefers a team of horses over a tractor, and a deluxe two-hole composting outhouse over a septic system. 

I first met Wendell in California in the Sixties: he taught a writing seminar on the second floor of the Inner Quad, around a large oval table. Wendell was not having an easy time getting across to us dozen West Coast undergraduates the essence of his Agrarian Jeffersonian philosophy. At one point a frustrated guy named Obadiah contributed to the conversation by spending five minutes crawling around under the table.

Last week, we found out on-line ( that, for Sunday’s service, our friends, Paul and Lara, were re-enacting a Sun Magazine interview with Wendell, so we drove over. Lara, a take-no-guff New Orleans lady, was wearing a beautiful feather-in tanned chicken hide hat; Paul, unadorned, appeared exactly as he is: organic, sustainable, off-the-grid, bio-intensive.

When we started reading the Responsive Reading from the back of the UU songbook, I thought it sounded a lot like Wendell; turned out, it was Wendell. Here it is: 

A Vision

If we will have the wisdom to survive,

To stand like slow growing trees on a ruined place,

Renewing, enriching it,

If we will make our seasons welcome here,

Asking not too much of earth or heaven,

Then a long time after we are dead,

The lives our lives prepare will live here,

Their houses strongly placed upon the valley sides,

Fields and gardens rich in the windows.

The river will run clear as we never know it,

And over it the birdsong like a canopy.

On the levels of the hills will be green meadows,

Stock bells in noon shade.

On the steeps where greed and ignorance cut down the old forest,

An old forest will stand, its rich leaf-fall drifting on its roots.

The veins of forgotten springs will have opened.

Families will be singing in the fields.

In their voices they will hear a music risen out of the ground.

They will take nothing out of the ground they will not return,

Whatever the grief at parting,

Memory, native to this valley, will spread over it like a grove,

And memory will grow into legend,

Legend into song, song into sacrament.

The abundance of this place, the songs of its people and its birds,

Will be health and wisdom and indwelling light.

This is no paradisal dream. Its hardship is its possibility.


Wendell Berry

Wendell Berry among new members of American Academy of Arts & Letters

New York, NY, March 20, 2014 – The American Academy of Arts and Letters will hold its annual induction and award ceremony in mid-May. Secretary of the Academy, Billie Tsien will induct nine new members into the 250-person organization: Robert Adams, Ann Hamilton, Bill Jensen, Wendell Berry, Ha Jin, Denis Johnson, Tobias Wolff, David Lang, and Alvin Singleton. President Henry N. Cobb will induct honorary members Alice Waters, Thomas Adès, John Banville, Toyo Ito, Leon Kossoff, Magnus Lindberg, Haruki Murakami, and Colm Tóibín. Elaine Scarry will deliver the Blashfield Foundation Address, titled "Beauty and the Pact of Aliveness." An exhibition of art, architecture, books, and manuscripts by new members and recipients of awards will be on view in the Academy’s galleries from May 22 to June 15.

via American Academy of Arts & Letters

Blog Watch: Wendell Berry cited on Political Discourse

In his essay “Discipline and Hope,” American cultural critic Wendell Berry argues that such pettiness is a result of the devolution of politics from an art in which leaders defend their visions and principles, to a “shallow game” where “language ceases to bind head to heart, action to principle, and becomes only a weapon in a contention deadly as war”. He claims that just as farming has been alienated from land and marriage from love, politics has abandoned the disciplines that should be at it’s heart; namely, “considerations of fact and of principle and of human and historical limits and possibilities”.

Berry observes that marketing tactics designed to placate a need for immediate cultural and political satisfaction have replaced these disciplines of discourse. Such tactics are rooted in a ‘popular perfectionism’ that – like philosophical traditions such as Marxism – strives for a utopian society, but is uniquely childish in obnoxiously demanding it now. Such civic irrationality stems from a broader societal obsession with consumption and efficiency, which has resulted in the “relentless subjection of means to immediate ends”.

Read more at Space to Breathe

Wendell Berry and Education

As early as his 1969 essay collection, The Long-Legged House, Berry expressed his doubts about formal education, writing:  “Although I have become, among other things, a teacher, I am skeptical of education. It seems to me a most doubtful process, and I think the good of it is taken too much for granted. It is a matter that is over-theorized and over-valued and always approached with too much confidence. It is . . . no substitute for experience or life or virtue or devotion. As it is handed out by the schools, it is only theoretically useful.”

In the early 1980s, Berry expressed a more radical displeasure in his HEHD essay. In it we glimpse many of the criticisms of higher education that he will continue to proclaim for the next three decades: 1) its main purpose is “career preparation,” preparing exploitive “careerists,” aiming to make more money; 2) this education “is dissociated from . . . [any] sense of obligation”; and 3) higher “educational institutions educate people to leave home,” in order to further their careers.

His essay also indicates what education should do: “Education in the true sense, of course, is an enablement to serve—both the living human community in its natural household or neighborhood and the precious cultural possessions that the living community inherits or should inherit.”

Read much more of this essay by Walter G. Moss at LA Progressive

More on Wendell Berry in Nashville, May 2-3

Wendell Berry, the renowned novelist, poet, environmental activist, cultural critic and farmer will be making a rare public appearance in Nashville on the weekend of May 2-3. On Friday evening he will be the featured guest at a ticketed benefit for Siloam Family Health Center. 

This evening event at Montgomery Bell Academy will feature special music by Andrew Peterson and an extended interview of Berry by Professor Norman Wirzba (Professor of Theology and Ecology at Duke Divinity School) considering the question “What Makes a Healthy Community?” 

via Siloam

A Report from The Berry Farming Program

The Berry Farming Program at St. Catharine College was pleased to welcome its first cohort of students this school year. Winifred Cheuvront, Sathya Govindasamy, Lusekelo Nkuwi, and Sié Tioyé are pursuing bachelor’s degrees in Farming and Ecological Agrarianism. Check out the profiles below to learn about their convictions for doing the good work of resettling countrysides at home and abroad.

Students representing a variety of disciplines join these four in the Berry Farming Program’s experiential learning-oriented courses. English, business, biology, sociology, psychology, and even sonography majors add their voices to discussions about agroecology and agrarianism.

Indeed, SCC students are digging into courses like Introduction to Agroecology and Food Studies, in which they explore the tenets of ecosystems-based farming and the necessity for culture-driven change. They take part in field excursions and service learning on local farms, at farms-to-school operations, and through community education projects. 

via The Berry Center