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October 2015

A Seminar concerning Wendell Berry

From Manchester (UK) Metropolitan University:

“The scientific-industrial culture, founded nominally upon materialism, arrives at a sort of fundamentalist disdain for material reality. The living world is then treated as dead matter, the worth of which is determined exclusively by the market” (Berry 2015, p. 7).

This seminar explores connections between the work of American agrarian conservationist and author Wendell Berry and that of “new materialists” as they each seek to emphasize the living materiality of a vital and complex world. I will be particularly interested in outlining some of the major contributions of Berry, in particular the principles underlying what he has called “the Great Economy” as these form a foundation for a critical analysis of destructive neoliberal policies in education and more generally, and an outline for much needed “pedagogies of responsibility.”

Read more at Manchester Metropolitan University

On listening to Wendell Berry

One of  the delights of our rainy afternoon a few days back was sitting by an open window, listening to the pitter on the uninsulated tin porch roof, and to Wendell Berry. ( The Unsettling of America, The Memory of Old Jack and many essays, much poetry.)-- KZYX was playing an archived City Arts and Lectures conversation with him from several years ago. The drip of water from my unguttered roof was pleasant background to Berry’s highly polished, rural and verbal, Southern styling: “the small communities I’ve been part of are remarkably tolerant of people’s behavior they don’t approve of” and fishhook rhythm: “Nobody should become a farmer from a sense of duty. They’ll regret it . . . and so will we” and sly warning to salesmen of all stripes: “There’s still a lot of people who do mind-numbing work whose minds are not numbed.” Berry left out the despairing adverb, not yet numbed. That adverb’s left to urban comics when they’re tossing us a hopeful bone.

Read more at Ukiah Daily Journal

Wendell Berry's Sabbath Poems Reviewed

This Day is a collection of poems written by Wendell Berry on Sunday walks in the woods and grounds of his farm, spanning (perhaps not coincidentally, given his Christian faith) thirty-three years, 1979–2012. In his beautiful introduction, he explains that he sought “a lovely freedom from expectations” in which his mind would become “hospitable to unintended thoughts” and that he was just as happy when the poems didn’t come. “To be quiet, even wordless, in a good place is a better gift than poetry.” The introduction then proceeds to express Berry’s thoughts about the natural world and our current relationship to it. Sometimes orthodox, often unorthodox and even heterodox, Berry’s relationship to Christianity, to nature, and to society is unique, truly individual, and authentic. His introduction signals to the reader to grow quiet and release expectations during the next four hundred pages of poetry, a length that might initially daunt some readers but which soon becomes as amiable as a woodland path leading to immersion in the flow of nature and ultimately one’s own thoughts.  

Read more at World Literature Today

Wendell Berry Visits Sewanee Freshman Program

Sewanee’s first-year program “Finding Your Place” recently completed its third year. The ten-day experience ended with a “Berry Symposium” featuring Wendell Berry and his daughter Mary the lens of chemistry, archaeology, and a host of Berry. In the program affectionately dubbed FYP, approximately 150 freshman students began their studies at Sewanee on August 12th. These students started one of their courses early, learning about the Domain and its surrounding communities through other subjects. Through readings, field trips, and plenary lectures, these students sought to gain an understanding of place and how to find their own place in Sewanee. Wendell Berry, a noted writer and environmental activist, visited campus on ... August 20th and 21st to discuss his own perception of place. Berry’s writings draw inspiration from his agricultural roots in Kentucky, and his works convey a strong emphasis on living in tune with nature. Mary Berry, his daughter, is the director of the Berry Center, an organization that works for agricultural reform. Several students from St. Catharine College, located in Kentucky, accompanied the Berry family. These visiting students are studying Farming and Ecological Agrarianism, a degree program made possible through a partnership with the Berry Center.

Read more at The Sewanee Purple

Wendell Berry Honored with First Annual American Food & Farming Award

Center for Food Safety (CFS) is proud to honor American poet, novelist, essayist, and farmer Wendell Berry with the first annual American Food & Farming Award.

Together with our distinguished host committee, comprised of 36 Members of Congress, CFS is celebrating the lifelong achievements of Mr. Berry, September 10, 2015, at a special event on Capitol Hill. The evening will include remarks and contributions from Rep. Chellie Pingree (ME); former Rep. Dennis Kucinich (OH); and Rep. John Yarmuth (KY).

“We are honored to present this award to Wendell Berry. Mr. Berry has for decades been the conscience of American farming, exposing the destruction and devastation of industrial agribusiness, while being this country’s most important advocate for returning ‘culture’ to our agriculture,” said Andrew Kimbrell, executive director at Center for Food Safety.

Read more at Center for Food Safety

On Wendell Berry and The Holy

“We are holy creatures living among other holy creatures in a world that is holy.
Some people know this, and some do not.” – Wendell Berry

This is a central theme in everything the great Kentucky poet/farmer/essayist/novelist Wendell Berry has ever written. In the quote above, from his essay on “Christianity and the Survival of Creation,” Berry uses the word “holy.” That’s a religious word — a sectarian word Berry employs in that essay, which is addressed to, and an indictment of, a sectarian audience.

He’s using their word because he is, after all, one of them. But still he’s not using their word in quite the way they’re used to using it. As such, one could argue that he’s using it incorrectly. Or, alternatively, one could argue that they are.

Read more at Slacktivist

Wendell Berry Comments on Racism and President Obama

A good many people hoped and even believed that Barack Obama’s election to the presidency signified the end of racism in the United States.  It seems arguable to me that the result has been virtually the opposite:  Obama’s election has brought about a revival of racism.  Like nothing since the Southern Strategy, it has solidified the racist vote as a political quantity recognizable to politicians and apparently large enough in some places to decide an election.

 I grant the polite assumption that not one of the elected officers of the states or the nation is a racist.  But politicians do not need to be racist themselves in order to covet, to solicit, or to be influenced by the racist vote.  This is shown by the pronounced difference between two by now established ways of opposing the President.

Read more at The Courier-Journal

Wendell Berry stands up for 19th century flatboat men

Like his apparent mentor, the Metropolitan’s caption-writer, Mr. Schwartz uses raftsmen and flatboats interchangeably as synonyms, and assumes that either a flatboat or a raft could be used to carry firewood to steamboats. A flatboat was used for transporting freight and could carry many tons, but downstream only. A raft was made of logs—or in Bingham’s paintings, squared timbers—to be transported, of course, only downstream. Both were equipped with long, heavy oars for steering, but they could not be rowed. Neither a flatboat nor a raft could have been used to supply firewood to a steamboat. Navigation of either a flatboat or a raft required great strength, skill, and knowledge—also courage, for the work was dangerous. The people who sold firewood to steamboats had first to cut the wood. And so there is no likeness whatever between Bingham’s river boatmen and gas station attendants.

Read more at The New York Review of Books