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KQED Interview with Wendell Berry and Gary Snyder

For more than four decades, two American literary icons -- author Wendell Berry and Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Gary Snyder -- corresponded with each other on topics ranging from art to the environment to their personal lives. Many of those letters have been collected in a new volume "Distant Neighbors: The Selected Letters of Wendell Berry and Gary Snyder," published by Berkeley's Counterpoint Press. Snyder and Berry join us to talk about their long-distance writerly relationship.

Listen to the audio at KQED


A Critical View of Wendell Berry's thoughts on Capitalism

Berry might have used his NEH lecture to point out the complex set of factors for the poor price his grandfather got for his tobacco crop in 1907. He might even have mentioned the words “progressivism” and “cronyism,” asking his listeners to consider what role cigar makers played in lobbying Progressive era politicians to protect the cigar market from the upstart and more economical machine-rolled cigarette? But pointing up the negative roles of Progressivism, cronyism and the leviathan state in an NEH lecture funded by the leviathan federal government isn’t something you see very often.

At the time Berry’s grandfather came home empty-handed, he and other Kentucky tobacco farmers might have taken the poor price for their tobacco crop as a signal that there was an oversupply of tobacco in the U.S. market, that the tobacco boom was on hold, and that it was time to focus more of their farming efforts elsewhere.

They might also have reasonably concluded that the dip in demand had been caused by government efforts to ban cigarette sales. Perhaps some did, but the Berry family was among those who responded by blaming the Tobacco Trust and joining efforts to demand “fair” prices for their tobacco.

Read more at Acton Institute


Wendell Berry cited on Doubt

Parker Palmer’s recent musings captivated me as I was preparing a sermon for my Christian congregation titled, “Doubt is a Friend of Belief.” Mr. Palmer sparked my imagination when referencing Wendell Berry’s “Two Muses of Creativity” because, in my experience, the dialectic of the muses is a part of the creative writing process for sermons that aspire to enliven conversation and not merely reinforce status quo thinking. While I was crafting my sermon, it seemed obvious that, just as Mr. Berry asserts there is a “Muse of Obstacles” that refines us as we journey toward our visions, there is also a “Muse of Doubt” that refines those who seek faith as a meaningful part of the human experience.

Read more at On Being.


A Reflection on Wendell Berry in Nashville

Writer-farmer Wendell Berry lives on Kentucky land that boasts no lengthy vista or stunning waterfall. Yet the place, he says, is inexhaustibly beautiful.

He shies away from TVs and computer screens. He doesn’t want to be distracted from the ground under his feet, the neighbors in his midst, the life of the woodlands — the dignified local economy in God’s great economy.

“I’m interested in where I am, and I don’t want that obscured to me,” he says.

 Read more at The Tennessean


Interview with editor of Wendell Berry/Gary Snyder letters

I’ve just finished editing a book titled Distant Neighbors: The Selected Letters of Wendell Berry and Gary Snyder. It gathers more than forty years of letters between two of the most important environmental writers and activists of our time. I teach work by both writers and am noticing how ideas from their letters—about writing, religion, ecological design, land use, and economics—are already beginning to show up in my courses. A couple weeks ago, I attended the release of the book at the Festival of Faiths in Louisville, Kentucky, where Berry and Snyder participated in a conversation about the book with their long-time friend and editor, Jack Shoemaker.

Via Words in Place


Wendell Berry, Grant Wood and the American Farmer

Grant Wood’s 1930 painting of a pitchfork-wielding farm couple heralds our return to Wendell Berry’s The Unsettling of America: Culture and Agriculture. How to interpret this portrait?  How to interpret American Gothic, which to my mind means the short stories of Edgar Allan Poe.  Through the lens ofThe Unsettling of America, an interpretation becomes clear; these farmers have disappeared, have sold their land to an agribusiness, and have longed ago moved to the city.  If there is a land ethic in their faces, that has been replaced with specialists.

Read more at Magic Fish Bones


Wendell Berry will speak 27 September in Louisville

The fourth annual Front Porch Republic conference will examine ways to promote a more comprehensive localist vision that both learns from and goes beyond the increasingly successful local-food movement. It will feature Wendell Berry and Mary Berry as the keynote speakers.

Other speakers will include Bill KauffmanJeff PoletJason PetersKatherine BoyerJeffrey BilbroJack Ray BakerJohn E. KleberSusannah BlackJustin Litke, and David Bosworth, among others.

Read more at Front Porch Republic.

Tickets can be purchased HERE.


Wendell Berry and Incarnational Theology

The disembodiedness of Griffiths' portrayal of theology led me to think about one of my favourite novels, Wendell Berry's Jayber Crow, a text I regularly use in my introductory theology classes.  As those familiar with Berry's work know, he has no truck with a theology that is (only) cerebral and otherworldly, and Jayber Crow is a novel that beautifully describes what it could mean to live out theological questions in such a way that the answers come to have a meaning and beauty they would not otherwise have.

Near the beginning of the book, the narrator recounts his conversation with one of his professors at Pigeonville College, a Bible college Jayber attended thinking that he had the call to ministry.  The problem is that Jayber can't accept the theological answers he's being fed.  His questions are too overwhelming, and he finally seeks the guidance of one of his professors, Dr. Ardmire.  The conversation they have sets the stage for the entire novel ...

Read more at My Unquiet Heart


Wendell Berry at Center for Kentucky History, June 7

Through their writings, teaching, and public speaking, Wendell Berry and James Klotter have helped many Kentuckians understand their collective past.

The two men shared a stage at the Thomas Clark Center for Kentucky History last Saturday to discuss the importance of studying the past as a way to prepare for the future. The program was part of the Kentucky Historical Society’s Boone Day festivities to mark the 222nd anniversary of statehood. KET's Renee Shaw moderated the thought-provoking and wide-ranging conversation.

Read much more at KET.