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February 2015
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April 2015

Wendell Berry's and Gary Snyder's "Distant Neighbors" Reviewed

In a correspondence spanning forty years, from 1973 to 2013, Wendell Berry and Gary Snyder spend much time writing about the weather. “Our weather this spring has been generally bad,” writes Berry in one early letter from his farm in Henry County, Kentucky, “cold and wet, with enough unseasonably warm days to start the trees budding too early.” Responding from his homestead in northern California, Snyder describes some spring “mountain weather—a sudden snow fall right now—big flakes.” For most people, weather talk has become a mere pleasantry. For Berry and Snyder, though, it reflects a shared commitment, one that animates their daily lives, poetry, essays, activism, and friendship. In a blurb for Berry’s 1977 classic, The Unsettling of America, Snyder describes it as a commitment to “living well, in place, on the land.” For “distant neighbors” that share such a commitment, descriptions of weather, the landscape, flora, and fauna offer the means of better imagining each other’s lives. As Berry writes in a poetic letter, “Here beside the Kentucky River, with songs all around us of the sycamore warbler, cardinal, indigo bunting, Baltimore oriole, wood thrush, robin, and song sparrow, we are thinking of you, dear friends, and wishing you well.”

Read more by Steven Knepper at Commonweal Magazine

On Wendell Berry's "Our Only World"

It’s a shame Wendell Berry’s new book of essays, Our Only World, has received scant recognition from reviewers. Not that the media have failed to acknowledge the work, just that they have all printed the same review by Kevin Begos of the Associated Press—a good review, but sadly singular.

Spiritual kin as well as an associate of Edward Abbey, Larry McMurtry, Tillie Olsen, and Ken Kesey through Wallace Stegner’s Stanford writing class, the Kentucky-born poet-philosofarmer deserves more attention. His informed and deftly crafted prose alone recommends him, but also in this book Berry directly takes on the greatest of civilization’s recent enemies—climate change.

Begos finds Berry’s latest effort “filled with beautiful, compassionate writing and careful, profound thinking.” I do, too.

Read more at Planetsave

Hog Poop, Romance and Wendell Berry Novels

That odour can smell as romance for a time. We invite apprentices into the life of our farm each year as a part of our Prairie Apprenticeship Program and to some folks the smell and squish of pig poop can prompt a sort of “I’m a Farmer” kind of moment. It’s as if the smell were incense wafting in from a Wendell Berry novel carrying with it a sense of venerable work, unsullied nativeness, and untarnished community life. But soon enough anyone enlisted to scoop hog stool will come to smell it for what it is and after they’re done and washed in the evening their hands will still smell of feces.

Read more at Mission: Work

Blogger appreciates but "has issues" with Wendell Berry

Berry's main ideas could be summed up as Rod Dreher has put it: "Small, Old, and Particular are better than Big, Global, and Abstract." In fact, Berry calls himself a Jeffersonian. For Berry, neither Big Corporations or Big Government is the answer. He promotes strong families, strong local communities, small farms, and a much smaller government. I concur wholeheartedly. 

But Berry has some issues. He's got a strain of environmentalism which is over the top. He is critical of the church in a bitter, non-constructive way. His own theology is handpicked mainly from a few passages in the Gospels. (His independent, hyper-individualist theology seems to contradict his own critiques of hyper-individualism). And although I like many aspects of his view of place, I think that it has some problems.

Read more at Broken Ground

A Worried Mother Offers Her Daughter a Wendell Berry Poem

I started leaving poems in her shoes in the morning. She had used the shoes as a form of quiet protest, so I decided I would use them to make a quiet stand for hope. When one of your primary strategies as a parent involves leaving Wendell Berry’s “Mad Farmer Liberation Front” in your child’s shoe, it’s clear things aren’t going well.

What I wanted her to know is: People have been in pain before, struggled to find hope, and look what they’ve done with it. They made poetry that landed right in your shoe, the same shoe you didn’t wear for four months because of your despair.

Before she went to school in the morning, I wanted her to read the poem “Wild Geese” by Mary Oliver that talks about not having to be good and not having to walk on your knees for miles, repenting. As Ms. Oliver writes, “You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.”

Or this, from Mr. Berry: “Be joyful, though you have considered all the facts.”

Read more at The New York Times