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A Timbered Choir: The Sabbath Poems, 1979-1997

4.38  ·  Rating Details ·  958 Ratings  ·  68 Reviews
Berry’s Sabbath poems embrace much that is elemental to human life--beauty, death, peace, and hope.In his preface to the collection, Berry writes about the growing audience for public poetry readings. While he sees poetry in the public eye as a good thing, Berry asks us to recognize the private life of the poem. These Sabbath poems were written "in silence, in solitude, an ...more
Paperback, 216 pages
Published 1998 by Counterpoint
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366th out of 517 books — 520 voters
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Community Reviews

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Jul 22, 2010 Heidi rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
I don't always "get" poetry, but many of these spoke to me. Here is one that I read over and over again:

Whatever is foreseen in joy
Must be lived out from day to day.
Vision held open in the dark
By our ten thousand days of work.
Harvest will fill the barn; for that
The hand must ache, the face must sweat.

And yet no leaf or grain is filled
By work of ours; the field is tilled
And left to grace. That we may reap,
Great work is done while we're asleep.

When we work well, a Sabbath mood
Rests on our day, an
Jan 31, 2016 Cheryl rated it it was amazing
I read somewhere that Wendell Berry thinks of himself as an “amateur poet.” I haven’t heard anything so ridiculously funny in a while. And I am afraid his politics and decision to be a full time farmer instead of a university professor might have suppressed the best poetry that was ever written. Where are the accolades? This poetry is so beautiful, accessible, important, spiritual, realistic, holy, religious, non religious, lyrical, everything. The poems are technically and lyrically brilliant, ...more
Sep 21, 2016 Heather rated it it was amazing

Leslie Norris said he wished he could write a Sabbath poem akin to Berry. Hear, hear! Heart and soul and earth and sky words to be savored under blankets of stars, smell of pine, babbling of brook and feel of red rock warmth. Oh so pretty and oh so keen personal journey of all the soul faces in surrendering to simplicity as well as cultural commentary on how the west was "won". Decades of inspiration and change one Sunday at a time. Both uplifting and slightly angry making at unwise land use pla
Apr 05, 2007 Josh rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Those who seek to tread the earth lightly
Shelves: poetry
I first discovered Wendell Berry when as an undergraduate at Southeastern University I recieved his poem "How to Be A Poet (to remind myself)" in my school mailbox as a gift from my advisor's wife, as I had recently presented Billy Collins to her freshmen composistion class. The poem has been on my bathroom mirror ever since, reminding me every morning of the virtues of silence, meditation, tranquility, and being present to ones surroundings. His poems seem to reflect his quest to practice these ...more
Jan 30, 2016 Bethany rated it it was amazing
Beautiful! I could always be reading this book, circling back to the beginning as soon as I finished the last page, and continue to find surprises in the words and images and rhythms.
Gary Grimes
Jul 10, 2015 Gary Grimes rated it really liked it
A very good read that allowed me to relax as I read it. I am t usually a fan of poetry but very much enjoyed reading this book. Let me look at divine in a different way.
Ben DeVries
Dec 11, 2013 Ben DeVries rated it really liked it
This collection of poetry really grew on me as I read through it. Many poignant reflections in it, which call my heart back to a simpler and more noble way of life ...
Patrick Walsh
Feb 27, 2016 Patrick Walsh rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
In 1993, when he was 59 or 59 years old, Wendell Berry wrote
Now more than ever you can be
generous toward each day
that comes, young, to disappear
forever, and yet remain
unaging in the mind.
Every day you have less reason
not to give yourself away.

I am now a few years older than he was when he wrote those words. Will I have the courage to embody that principle?

This would be a good book to read once a year, although there are undoubtedly many other volumes of poetry of which the same thing might be s

Wendell Berry makes me proud to be from KY.
Aug 21, 2008 Suzanne rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
salt of the earth, spirit of the sky
May 22, 2012 Lawrence rated it really liked it
Mr. Berry provides insights into a pastoral world of work and nature. If he did not recognize this particular world and its inhabitants as endangered, I would be tempted to say the poems are Arcadian. They are poems that treasure the delicacy and pure existence of creation and express hope for its preservation. I think people argue whether Mr. B. is a religious man. I do not have much doubt that he is. References to the Bible appear. But, more, the poems are transcendent with beauty and spirit. ...more
Sep 14, 2013 Ivan rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
This is a fantastic collection of Wendell Berry’s “Sabbath Poems,” poems which he wrote out in the woods during his Sunday morning walks (1979-1997). In his preface, Berry says these poems “were written in silence, in solitude, mainly out doors.” Therefore the reader “will like them best … who reads them in similar circumstances—at least in a quiet room” and “slowly, … with more patience than effort” (xvii.)

Here’s a sampling and some of my favorites on trees, the changing of seasons, marital int
Sep 21, 2014 Nan rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
As with any Wendell Berry collection, this one reveals some gems if you take the time to search for what speaks to you. Especially appreciated a poem about growing older containing these lines: "No, no, there is no going back. / Less and less you are / that possibility you were. / Now more than ever you can be / generous toward each day / that comes, young, to disappear / forever and yet remain / unaging in the mind. / Every day you have less reason / not to give yourself away." Well put, Wendel ...more
Stephen Hicks
Apr 18, 2015 Stephen Hicks rated it really liked it
This is the first of Berry's poetry that I have picked up. I was very pleased with what I found. I don't feel that I can rant and rave about this book not because what I found was of poor quality, but because Berry installs a sense of peace and tearfulness that epitomizes the meaning of the Sabbath. His poems are never fast-moving or action-packed; they are appreciative, observant, transcendent, and loving. I was very pleased with this collection. Mostly set around his life in nature and farm wo ...more
Nov 04, 2013 Serena rated it it was amazing
I don't know that I've ever read a book of poetry cover-to-cover before now, but I couldn't help but read every poem in A Timbered Choir. It is a collection of poems Wendell Berry wrote on Sunday morning walks between 1979 and 1997, with themes of nature, farming, community, God and the Sabbath.

Berry's words flow together so well, and yet the verses are accessible to common people--they're not lofty and overly metaphorical. These poems inspire readers to slow down, take a Sabbath rest, and notic
Dec 04, 2015 Volkert rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
These "Sabbath Poems" were written as part of Wendell Berry's Sunday morning walks on or near his farm in rural Kentucky over the course of nearly 20 years. This is a life of reflection and it is one worth taking note of.

These poems grew on me, as I grew accostomed to the language, the rhythm, the depth. But I also think the poet grew as a poet and thinker over the course of these years, and I found that I connected much more deeply with the later poems. I'm glad I waded through some of the earl
Dec 20, 2015 Daniel rated it really liked it
"May what I have written here
In sleepless grief and dread
Live in my children's ears
To warn them of their need
And ask them to forebear
In time when I am dead

So they may look and see
For past and future's sake
The terms of victory
They cannot win or take
Except by charity
Toward what they cannot make."
Apr 04, 2016 Eric rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry, reviewed, 2014
Simply some of the most enchanting, lavish, and lyrical prose poetry that I've ever read. Berry writes with a vision and a purpose - to capture the beauty of stillness, the breath of life, the beauty of acceptance of mortality, and the circular dance of life and death, and offer his words as a gift to His creator.

Berry states that they were written in silent solitude, mainly out of doors, and that's how one should attempt to enjoy them.

The book is broken into years, with each year offering a c
Jamie Fender
Dec 27, 2014 Jamie Fender rated it it was amazing
A lovely book of verses that speak to the soul about rest and quiet reflection. I find myself returning to these verses over and over to find that "yes" in my spirit that responds to Wendell's descriptions of nature and quietude.
Mar 24, 2016 Laura rated it liked it
I found it very repetitive, but there are still a few poems that stood out to me as gems. Lots of meditations on the same themes of nature and rest, but a lovely collection nonetheless.
Andrew Stout
Sep 18, 2012 Andrew Stout rated it really liked it
A wonderful set of reflections on that which is given, that which can only be received. Primarily, Berry speaks to the givenness of nature and his own gratitude for it and the minor but meaningful work that he has been given to do in it. However, he also deals with human relationships, both intimate and casual, and the importance of both the grateful reception as well as the loving cultivation of them. These poems make wonderful Sunday meditations, but they can also serve as a more daily reminde ...more
Margaret Martin
Sep 03, 2012 Margaret Martin rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Carole Whitrock
One of my very favorite poets. He wrote this collection of poems over a twenty-year span on walks on Sundays. In his words: "These poems were written in silence, in solitude, mainly out of doors. A reader will like them best, I think, who reads them in similar circumstances- at least in a quiet room. They would be most favorably heard if read aloud into a kind of quietness that is not afforded by any public place. I hope that some readers will read them as they were written: slowly, and with mor ...more
Rebekah Mcnay
Jun 17, 2014 Rebekah Mcnay rated it really liked it
A really good book to have on the porch with you or in your bag while you are waiting for something.
Tonia Peckover
Aug 31, 2016 Tonia Peckover rated it it was amazing
At the top of my poetry list. It's fun to see his progression as a poet as the decades go by.
Tara Tetzlaff
Oct 17, 2014 Tara Tetzlaff rated it it was amazing
My favorite author by far....simplicity that is breathtaking in its beauty.
Jane Zanger
Jul 05, 2015 Jane Zanger rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
My Sunday morning ritual for over a year...
Aug 27, 2015 Darceylaine rated it it was amazing
Possibly my favorite poetry collection
Apr 27, 2013 Katlyn rated it liked it
There were some moments in this book that I really enjoyed. Berry makes an interesting juxtaposition of archaic rhymes and form with contemporary language. I didn't always enjoy it and found the forms too rigid, with unclear motives behind his line endings and reversed word order. But the content is definitely appreciable; if not always original, then a reminder that certain reflections and struggles are irrespective of place or time, or even philosophy. It's a nice book to read in the morning, ...more
Jun 30, 2016 Marissa rated it really liked it
Shelves: geating, wirzba
Stanzas from this book have shaped my view of life -- in light of daily grace and mercy, regarding rest, regarding relationships, regarding place and homesickness and homelessness. His essays (especially in Sex, Freedom, Economy, and Community and The Art of the Commonplace) have built a framework in my mind for thinking about such things; his poems provide the hook that brings them to my daily remembrance and living.

"We live by mercy if we live at all."
Billie Pangalos
Jul 16, 2014 Billie Pangalos rated it liked it
Giving poetry a try...
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Wendell Berry is a conservationist, farmer, essayist, novelist, professor of English and poet. He was born August 5, 1934 in Henry County, Kentucky where he now lives on a farm. The New York Times has called Berry the "prophet of rural America."
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