On Wendell Berry and Christian Nationalism

I’d like to talk about two subjects that don’t seem to have much to do with one another: Christian nationalism and Wendell Berry. I think many people were as alarmed and horrified as I was – as pretty much the entire country was, and the entire world, at least momentarily – about the insurrection on Capitol Hill on January 6, 2021. There were many things to be alarmed about in that moment, but maybe the thing that horrified me the most was seeing a sign that said “Jesus saves” in the same mob that had a noose for the vice president of the United States on a gallows made there. Many people have wondered, as they look at this and other expressions of religion used for cultural or political purposes and sometimes even violent purposes around the world: Where does this come from, and how do we answer it?

Read all of "Faith, Fiction, and Christian Nationalism" by Russell Moore at Plough.


Italy meets Wendell Berry

Italy is famous for the excellence of its local products. It is renowned for wines that express the specificities of its territories, whose area sometimes covers only a few acres, and for microclimates that permit the production of widely different cured meats. Italy is famous for styles of painting and architecture, dialects and foods that change every few miles as one travels through the countryside. Why did Italy develop so many varieties, with such a deep intuition for the hidden possibilities in every territory? There is an American poet who can help us rediscover the roots of Italy’s greatness, and perhaps also help us find a good road for our common future. That poet is Wendell Berry. He is not yet well known in Italy. However, his works resonate so deeply with the spirit of Italy that it is probable that Berry will not only become well known, but even celebrated, as he has become over the last few decades in North America.

Read "From a Lookout in the Woods" by Jonah Lynch in L'Osservatore Romano.


Video Reflection on a Wendell Berry Sabbath Poem

"This video explores my favorite ekphrastic poem -- a 2004 selection from American poet Wendell Berry’s vast collection of spiritual, nature-oriented Sabbath Poems, which in Berry’s words, were written “in silence, in solitude, mainly out of doors.” This poem was inspired by the watercolor painting Jacob’s Dream by the visionary English artist and poet William Blake, which depicts in a unique spiral stairway the famous Biblical story of Jacob’s ladder from Genesis 28."

Visit A Moonlighting English Teacher at YouTube.


Poetic Response to Wendell Berry's Mad Farmer

Jason Rodenbeck has begun a challenge to readers to compose poems as responses to Mr. Berry's "Mad Farmer." His poem begins like this:

I saw the Mad Farmer
outside the city
standing defiant
at the treeline;
I heard his voice
crying out for the wilderness

from the false security
of my sanitized room
I witnessed his
lonesome prophecy
and I felt myself then
for the first time hollow
as I always had been
chasing dreams of
greatness and
manufactured purpose,
empty distractions and
greedy comforts

I heard his voice calling me,
“Forget those! Know your smallness!
Inhabit your incompleteness!
Embrace your partiality, your
connections to this earth and
your neighbor!”

Read all of "for the Mad Farmer" by Jason Rodenbeck at his blog,  Thinking Peacefully.


Larkspur Press publishes Wendell Berry's Sabbaths 2016

Mr. Gray Zeitz's long-running letterpress project at Larkspur Press has delivered another volume of recent poems, Sabbaths 2016. Like so many other Larkspur/Berry editions, the book includes several wood engravings by Wesley Bates, whose work was featured in the recent film Look & See: A Portrait of Wendell Berry.

The fifteen Sabbath poems here include "What Passes, What Remains," a longer narrative poem that was first published in The Art of Loading Brush (Counterpoint, 2017). Other poems from 2016 have been published in Oxford American, Spring 2018.

See Sabbaths 2016 and other Larkspur titles HERE.


Review of UK selection of Wendell Berry's poetry

Wendell Berry was born in Henry County, Kentucky nearly a hundred years after the publication of Emerson’s Nature in 1836. He has lived, farmed and written there for more than half a century. Berry’s poems, novels, and essays examine this same question of place, of what it means to live deep-rootedly, a question that returns, time and again, in The Peace of Wild Things, a new selection of his poetry published by Penguin earlier this year.

The book runs roughly chronologically, beginning with poems from Berry’s first collection, The Broken Ground, published in 1964, through to poems from the early 2000s. There’s also a generous selection of “Sabbath Poems”, tied to Berry’s ritualistic Sunday morning walks, which he began to write in 1979, and the most recent of which in this selection is taken from A Small Porch, published by Counterpoint in 2016. The Peace of Wild Things opens with “The Apple Tree”, a poem that establishes a number of Berry’s poetic and conceptual traits, which have remained fairly consistent across his career. As he puts it in “Damage”, an essay from 1974, “If I live in my place, which is my subject, then I am ‘at’ my work even when I am not working. […] When I am finished writing, I can only return to what I have been writing about.”

Read the article by Rowland Bagnall at The Oxonian Review.


Review of Wendell Berry UK poetry collection

This column is usually reserved for new collections, but there is a reason to break this rule for Wendell Berry. It is extraordinary that he is not better known. I was on the verge of saying he should be a household name, but households have never been his thing. His selected verse, in a new edition by Penguin, is the work of an outdoorsman; it aspires to Gerard Manley Hopkins’s idea that nature is, for all the depredations, “never spent”. This is poetry to lower blood pressure, to induce calm.

Berry’s gift, as a Kentucky farmer and as a writer, is to root himself as a tree might – not to commandeer nature but to cherish it. I do not think it fanciful to see these poems as a form of manual labour – of necessary work. The title poem – his best known – is, at the same time, a secular prayer. The language is slightly churchy, which might not be to everyone’s taste, although there is pleasure in seeing church and meadow come together harmoniously. Berry repeatedly finds a remedy in nature, yet never comes to it in quite the same way.

To read the whole review by Kate Kellaway, go to The Guardian.


Wendell Berry cited on William Carlos Williams

To Wendell Berry, whose life has been spent in the very different environs of rural Kentucky, Williams’s intense rootedness in place is a major part of his example and legacy. He praises “Williams’ lifelong effort to come to terms with, to imagine, and to be of use to his native and chosen place.” This “local adaptation,” as Berry calls it, has more than literary implications: in the course of the book, it becomes an ecological, economic, and political creed.

Fundamental to this interpretation of Williams is the idea that he and his poetry benefited from being so closely tied to Rutherford. “As a part of the necessary conversation of a local culture,” Berry writes, “poetry becomes more urgently important than it can ever be as a high-cultural or academic specialty.”

Read the complete essay by Adam Kirsch at The New York Review of Books.


Reflections on Wendell Berry and Complexity

Reading Wendell Berry is an exercise in cultivating complexity. His love of Nature, the vision of locality, and understanding of the costs of a global economy resonate with what remains of my small-town southern upbringing. I did not live the Hillbilly Elegy experience; instead, my memories of childhood evoke an almost Berry-esque playing by the creekside on our five acres in Montgomery County, Tennessee. Reading Berry calls my soul to abandon the city life I live and move to a mythical farm.

And yet, there are goods the city cultivates which Mr. Berry’s vision would demand sacrificing.

Read the whole article by Josh Herring at The Imaginative Conservative.


On Life, Silence, and Wendell Berry

I read this poem of quiet—of communicating without screens, of living without air conditioning and technology, in order to “make a poem that does not disturb the silence from which it came”—to my husband in our bed at home and we nod and say, “hmmm, yes,” together.

Berry often writes of loss and the quirkiness of community, but his writing spins visions of a world long past: one that is idyllic, beautiful, and ultimately fulfilling. In those moments of reading his poetry, I find Berry’s words affirming of the life we’ve chosen and pushing us to even more difficult choices.

But after nearly a decade of attempting to eschew some of the attractions and amenities of urban life, I’ve also begun to wonder if Berry’s pure ideals are feasible, if this idyllic long ago that he writes about ever really existed at all.

We moved to our farming community on the wings of a Wendell Berry novel eight years ago, hoping for a simpler life, and even taking a brief detour to visit his home in Kentucky as we drove from Washington, D.C. to the rural Midwest. For eight years, we gave all we were able to give to the ideals of sharing our lives with our neighbors, worshipping together, eating together, and growing good food.

Eventually, we decided to leave, not because we didn’t believe in the ideals of hospitality, simplicity, and love of neighbor anymore, but because the community began to crumble under the weight of flailing leadership, clashes of vision, financial strain, and broken relationships.

Read the whole article by Christiana Peterson at Image.