Wendell Berry on "Wild and Domestic"

Orion Magazine has recently published Mr. Berry's reflections on the troubled and troubling relations between the terms "wild" and "domestic." Orion has also made this brief essay available online. It begins:

I. GARY SNYDER SAID that we know our minds are wild because of the difficulty of making ourselves think what we think we ought to think.

II. That is the fundamental sense of “wild” or of “wilderness”: undomesticated, unrestrained, out of control, disorderly.

III. There are two ways to value this, as exemplified by the sense of “wild party”: from the point of view of the participants and that of the neighbors.

IV. To our people, as pioneers, “the wilderness” looked disorderly, undomestic, out of control.

V. According to that judgment, it needed to be brought under control, put in order by domestication.

VI. But our word “domestic” comes from the Latin domus, meaning “house” or “home.” To domesticate a place is to make a home of it. To be domesticated is to be at home.

VII. It is a sort of betrayal, then, that our version of domestication has imposed ruination, not only upon “wilderness,” as we are inclined to think, but upon the natural or given world, the basis of our economy, our health, in short our existence.

Read the complete article HERE. And subscribe to this great magazine if you can.

 


Wendell Berry's "The Farm" republished and reviewed

The newly released book The Farm by Wendell Berry is a worthwhile purchase simply for its beauty. A trade reprint of the hard-to-find letterpress edition by Kentucky’s Larkspur Press, this new book retains the elegance of the original in both its design and its monochrome drawings by Carolyn Whitesel.

The sole content of the book is the long poem that gives the book its title, which is at once a depiction of a farm and its workings (presumably based on Berry’s own farm), and rich wisdom on how to run a farm sustainably – from maintaining woodlands to cultivating cornfields to keeping a garden.

The intermingling of biodiverse relationships between humans, land, plants, and animals in this poem, is reminiscent of what I experienced on my grandparents’ small-to-medium-sized Iowa farm a generation ago. Berry’s vision of the farm, while frank about the intensive labor it requires (“There is no end to work — /… / One job completed shows / Another to be done.”), is compelling in the image of farm life that it conjures.

Read the complete review by C. Christopher Smith at The Englewood Review of Books.


A review of "The Essential Wendell Berry"

Agrarianism is the theme he returns to with great regularity and is also the subject of his best-known book, the 1977 classic The Unsettling of America, a compressed version of which is included in this collection. A good part of Berry’s career has involved excoriating mechanized, chemicalized mega-farming as a brutal, life-threatening assault that kills the soil and sends it down the river, guts farming communities, renders moot our relationship to animals and sky and other people, and widens a dualism between us and the earth that is ruining our health, our minds, our ability to live satisfying lives, and the American (and global) culture.

These works are mostly about small-town America, and mostly set on Berry’s farm at Lane’s Landing, once a riverboat stop on the Kentucky River near Port Royal, Kentucky. But not one word stoops to smug nostalgia. He is instead trying to prove that science and economics happen in a place: he draws endlessly and non-repetitively on the deep well of the lived truth of farm life, which delivers up sweet, clear lines of poetry and local lore and a kind of immediate authenticity.

That authority is the reason we read Wendell Berry. When he tells us precisely what ails us as a nation, that a “Faustian economics” of “corporate fundamentalism” fuels a “world-ending fire” of limitless consumerism that is our ruin, we believe him. We want to scream it from the rooftops. But he goes a step further. He doesn’t leave the question begged, but answers it:

Small solutions, unrelentingly practical, that will be made by individuals in relation to small parcels of land.

Read all of "How to Fight the Fire" by Dean Kuipers at Los Angeles Review of Books.


Library of America will publish Wendell Berry essays in April 2019

Wendell Berry
What I Stand On: The Collected Essays of Wendell Berry 1969–2017 (two volumes)
Jack Shoemaker, editor
Volume 1: Essays 1969–1990
Library of America Series #316 / ISBN 978-159853-606-5
Volume 2: Essays 1993–2017
Library of America Series #317 / ISBN 978-159853-608-9
Boxed set: ISBN 978-159853-610-2
April 2019

See the complete Spring roster of Library of America titles HERE.


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.


The Wendell Berry Catalogue from Counterpoint

Counterpoint Press has published their catalogue of the complete works of Wendell Berry. It is a pdf file that contains not just descriptions of the individual titles but also includes brief notes by Jack Shoemaker, Alice Waters, and independent booksellers Kris Kleindienst (Left Bank Books, St. Louis) and Michael Boggs (Carmichaels Bookstore, Louisville).

Shoemaker suggests a reason for Mr. Berry's ongoing appeal to readers:

Wendell never preaches. He simply speaks from the heart a truth he knows too well. I think that’s why over the years we have sold tens of thousands of his titles to young people. They know there is something rotten in what we have done to nature, what we continue to do, and they are looking for someone who can articulate and focus that feeling. They leave one of his readings or talks realizing that this magical, mystical force we call nature is simply a house in which we are guests—and we must care for it because there are new guests arriving daily.

Visit Counterpoint Press. See The Wendell Berry Catalogue (pdf).


New study of Wendell Berry due in January 2019

In Virtues of Renewal: Wendell Berry’s Sustainable Forms, Jeffrey Bilbro combines textual analysis and cultural criticism to explain how Berry’s literary forms encourage readers to practice virtues of renewal. While the written word alone cannot enact change, Bilbro asserts that Berry’s poetry, essays, and fiction can inspire people to, as Berry writes, “practice resurrection.” Bilbro examines the distinct, yet symbiotic, features of these three genres, demonstrating the importance of the humanities in supporting tenable economies. He uses Berry’s pieces to suggest the need for more robust language for discussing conservation, ecology, and the natural—and regenerative—process of death. Bilbro additionally translates Berry’s literature to a wider audience, putting him in conversation with philosophers and theologians such as Ivan Illich, Willie Jennings, Charles Taylor, and Augustine.

See complete information at The University Press of Kentucky.


Nick Offerman on Wendell Berry's new Library of America volume

Wendell Berry’s works are, perhaps, the literary equivalent of one of the farm tables from his own stories, laden with robust dishes of every stripe, from savory to sweet to salty, all to be washed down with spring water, lemonade and buttermilk, or perhaps a little firewater if our luck holds. And the analogy doesn’t end there, either, because that multi-plattered feast is surrounded by smells, by raucous laughter and talk, roosters and roof-drumming raindrops, or at other times by silence, solemn and gravid.

The gift of Mr. Berry’s yarn-spinning is in how his work delves deeper and deeper, proceeding to tell you about the origins of the table itself, complete with the details of its earnest maker, as well as which joints are sound, and which might eventually give out due not to any fault of the craftsperson but to an unseen pitch pocket hiding inside one of the large stretcher tenons, weakening the joint with a natural, hollow cavity. And he’s still not done because he will then proceed to delineate the history of the oak tree from which the table’s boards were hewn, decades ago, and what was going on in that particular corner of the woodlot the day that tree was felled.

The table linens get the same treatment, as does the salt cellar, and . . . well, I imagine I’ve made my point. Attempting to apprehend the scope of his vision leaves me literally slack-jawed, tuckered out, and dumb.

Read all of Mr. Offerman's thoughts at Library of America.


Wendell Berry in new Earth Day Journal from The Berry Center

from “For the Neighbors”

In the United States, which once were colonies, we made what we now call “rural America” a colony of the cities and the corporations. If the cities and corporations have wanted coal or copper or cotton or corn, the rule has been that they should go into the country and take its products for the lowest possible price but at an unbooked and immeasureable cost to the land and the people. 

And so we have had several centuries of plunder and waste and pollution, “backed” by concentrated wealth and power on a continental or global scale, but always enacted in the rural landscapes, country communities, and small towns, which have always been readily dismissable as “country” or “corny” or “the boondocks” or “the middle
of nowhere.” 

If all this adds up to global emergencies such as climate change, it also produces in universities, bureaus, think tanks, and the like, a hearty appetite for global solutions involving dramatic technologies, heroic breakthroughs, and epic sums of money. The necessary repairs, even so, will have to be made in the rural landscapes, country communities, and small towns where the trouble started. 

The great questions now overhanding these small rural places where the global problem will be solved are these: what will be the solutions? And How and on what scale and by whom and for whose ultimate benefit will they be installed? 

Read the whole article by Wendell Berry (and more from The Berry Center) at Earth Day Journal, Volume 1 (pdf).


Library of America questions Wendell Berry

In advance of the publication of Wendell Berry: Port William Novels & Stories (The Civil War to World War II), The Library of America has posted a Q&A with Mr. Berry.

Library of America: This first Library of America volume presents four novels and twenty-three short stories of the Port William sequence in the order of their narrative chronology—a long arc tracing roughly eighty years of rural American life. What might a reader of your work gain from seeing it laid out in this form, instead of in the order in which it was written?

Wendell Berry: “Might” is the right word here. I know this work from the inside, whereas a reader can know it only from the outside. I know it, or have known it, first in the order in which the parts were written. The whole work “from the Civil War to the end of World War II,” as Library of America has published it, was not written from first to last according to a plan. The order of writing was simply the order in which the parts became imaginable to me. A reader, reading from earliest to latest in the order of history, may know this body of work differently, and even better, than I can know it.

Read the whole exchange at Library of America.