"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."
A friend recently reminded me of a song that is somehow related to Wendell Berry’s fictional character Burley Coulter.
Back in early 2018, folk songwriter John McCutcheon released his 39th album, Ghost Light, which contains "Burley Coulter at the Bank". A review at the time describes the song as a "story of progress serving the few while draining the many of their meager fortunes. It's a story made all the more poignant because the young go-getter is a local who realizes too late that his duty to his job betrays his own neighbors." (Ed Whitelock, Pop Matters)
At his website (where the song is identified as "Burley Coulter in the Bank"), Mr. McCutcheon thanks Mr. Berry "for loaning me the name of one of his most memorable characters." And since there is no such bank incident in the Port William fiction, it's clear that the songwriter is paying homage to the novelist who has thought so intensely about the destruction of small farms and rural communities. It's also clear that the song's Burley is a sad homage to an older generation who have been ruined by brutal 20th century financial practices.
"Russell D. Moore is an American evangelical theologian, ethicist, and preacher. He is currently president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, the public-policy arm of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC)." Wikipedia
In this video Dr. Moore offers his thoughts on Mr. Berry's Jayber Crow.
As part of Drennon Springs History Day, Henry County farmer, writer and activist Wendell Berry read his short story “A Half Pint of Old Darlin’,” from Watch with Me, a Port William Membership collection that took place in Goforth, a fictional stand-in loosely based on Drennon Springs, Kentucky.
Listen to The Membership discuss this story and "The Lost Bet" ... HERE.
This year's KY Arts and Letters Day [November 10, 2018] at The Berry Center featured a very special keynote for our NEA Big Read: Agrarian Literary League of Henry County. Kentucky authors Wendell Berry and Crystal Wilkinson joined in conversation with moderator Debbie Barker to talk about their work, Ernest Gaines' A Lesson Before Dying, growing up in and writing about rural places, and the legacy of black agrarianism in the South. Visit berrycenter.org to subscribe to our newsletter and find us on Facebook and Instagram for more information about events and goings-on at the center. Filmed live on location in New Castle, Kentucky.
On April 21, 2018, Ragan Sutterfield delivered the Tippy McMichael Lecture at St. Paul Episcopal Church in Fayetteville, Arkansas.
He posed the questions: "What are we to do if we recognize the death of the earth and her ecosystems that have nurtured and sustained our lives? What do we do if we want to take this death seriously in search for a better way to live into whatever future life there will be on the the other side of chaos and mass extinction?" As the beginning of an answer he suggests, "Find a time and a place, and make them holy."
Sutterfield, author of Wendell Berry and the Given Life, has been deeply influenced by Mr. Berry's thought. In the following video he cites a brief passage from the early essay "A Native Hill."
Until we understand what the land is, we are at odds with everything we touch. And to come to that understanding it is necessary, even now, to leave the regions of our conquest—the cleared fields, the towns and cities, the highways—and re-enter the woods. For only there can a man encounter the silence and the darkness of his own absence. Only in the silence and darkness can he recover the sense of the world’s longevity, of its ability to thrive without him, of his inferiority to it and his dependence on it. Perhaps then, having heard that silence and seen that darkness, he will grow humble before the place and begin to take it in—to learn from it what it is.
This film uses an interview with Mr Berry that was apparently filmed in 2006.
In response to the events of September 11, 2001, Kentucky author Wendell Berry wrote the essay "Thoughts in the Presence of Fear". Appalshop filmmaker Herb E. Smith matched his words with scenes of Kentucky and interviewed Wendell years later about the process of writing in response to crisis and the essay's continued relevancy. This is the first time Appalshop has made this work publicly accessible. KET shares this piece each year to commemorate the events of September 11, 2001.
The text of the essay "Thoughts in the Presence of Fear" can be found HERE at Orion Magazine.
The first documentary about Berry, one of America’s most significant living writers, “Look and See” was filmed in and around Henry County, Kentucky — where Berry has lived and farmed since the mid-1960s. Filmmaker Laura Dunn weaves Berry’s poetic and prescient words with striking cinematography and the testimonies of his wife Tanya Berry; his daughter Mary Berry, a UK alumna and executive director of The Berry Center; and neighbors, all of whom are being deeply affected by the industrial and economic changes to their agrarian way of life.