A Timbered Choir: The Sabbath Poems 1979-1997
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A Timbered Choir: The Sabbath Poems 1979-1997

4.38 of 5 stars 4.38  ·  rating details  ·  691 ratings  ·  48 reviews
For nearly twenty years Wendell Berry has often spent his Sunday mornings in a kind of walking meditation, observing the world and composing poetry. As he writes in his foreword, "These poems were written in silence, in solitude, mainly out of doors." He asks that they be read in the same manner. If it's an unusual wish, it proves unusually rewarding.
Hardcover, 216 pages
Published December 12th 1971 by Counterpoint LLC
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Heidi
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...more
Heather Roberts
One I will keep in my heart always.
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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 an...more
Josh
Apr 05, 2007 Josh rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
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
Ben DeVries
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 ...
Lindsey
Wendell Berry makes me proud to be from KY.
Suzanne
salt of the earth, spirit of the sky
Lawrence
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
Ivan
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...more
Serena
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...more
Andrew Stout
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 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
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
A really good book to have on the porch with you or in your bag while you are waiting for something.
Katie Smolkovich
Again, I say Berry can put things into words that I can't. Nature can speak to us in so many ways but reading his poems evokes new feelings or feelings you couldn't describe before. It releases you from the hustle and bustle of modern life, stress, and machines.
Susan Eubank
Good to read at mom's beside.
Katlyn
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
Vasha7
Certainly very Christian, these meditations, and optimistic. It seems that although the poet is aware of having fallen, he does not feel completely cut off from the "light" (a constantly recurring image, though in at least one poem, shadow is healing too). Sometimes he speaks as if the whole world is fallen (a concept I've always found ridiculous) and sometimes just humankind. However little the themes relate to me, it's excellent poetry, crisp and vivid.
Jeffery
A searching, reverent, rooted book of Berry's Sunday-morning poems. Soul food. Doesn't just turn your gaze upward--his poems show a God who is intimately present and involved in the world around us. Some of the prominent themes include the greatness of God's providence, Christ-patterns in nature, the unshakable joy that comes from good work and good community, and the virtues of solitude.
Shannon Quay
A gift from Hilary. Really...a gift from Hilary to Brian but I'm married to him, and we live together so really it's a gift for me too.


A book of poems that Wendell Berry wrote about how he experiences God outside. The Sabbath poems.


"The mind that comes to rest is tended
In ways that it cannot intend:
Is borne, preserved, and comprehended
By what it cannot comprehend."
Emily
Berry's Sabbath poems reveal what I would imagine a Sabbath should be. It reminds me of the idea that "Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath." Why shouldn't we just take a walk every Sunday and let nature reveal God to us? Is there a higher form of worship than to just pay attention to who God is by paying attention to what he created?
Gloria
Didn't read every single poem, but even random selections are simply worded and graceful. Wendell Berry just seems like he would be a gentle soul, good with animals, kind to the earth, and just a wonderful person. He clearly loves solitude and writing, yet seems to have a good relationship with both loved ones and nature.
Dawn Richerson
Poetry about faith written in solitude on walks through the woods. Oh my, I'm in love. Plus, Wendell Berry is from my beloved Kentucky. On a more objective note, Berry's Sabbath Poems come alive and call us back to a way of life that honors nature and natural rhythms without sacrificing the whole of who we are.
Paul
Timbered Choir usually comes along with me on retreats and road trips, good for pulling out sitting in the snow or along a harvested field in the Fall. My brain doesn't seem wired to get lots of poetry, but Berry's poems are so rooted to the earth and relationships that they take hold for me. Like a good friend.
Shraddha
Jan 21, 2008 Shraddha rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: ishan
A wonderful collection of poems. Berry connects you to his meditative observations of the natural world with a beautiful hand. As you read each one evaluate it against what our world is doing to the earth. Keep in mind the havoc of industrialization and your own attitude towards what you find beautiful in nature.
Al
Mar 07, 2008 Al rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
Thank you Mr. Berry. Thank you for your insight, your forethought, and genuine look at life and what is important and what shouldn't be important. I really enjoyed 1989. This collection is a must for everyone. Read, meditate, reread, and then put it down and enjoy the quietness of life. Read and enjoy.
Sunni
As always, some poems feel stronger than others, but an incredible collection of meaningful, contemplative and celebratory poems. Never showy or casual. Reading it gets you acquainted with a man who loves life and God, reflects on the meaning of both regularly, and lives in perpetual hope.
Caris
Just a favorite quote:
"The mind that comes to rest is tended in ways it cannot intend; Is borne, preserved, and comprehended by what it cannot comprehend. Your Sabbath, Lord, thus keeps us by your will, not ours. And it is fit Our only choice should be to die Into that rest, or out of it."
Alena
What can I say about Wendell Berry? His writing, along with that of Thoreau, is about as close as I come to reading the bible. This books sits on my night stand and I often turn to it in the evening to quiet my mind or in the morning to provide perspective. Every poem is a prayer.
Diane
I had not read a book of poetry for years. This one was a treasure. Sometimes I saw glimpses of my childhood, sometimes glimpses of God, nature, and culture from a new angle.
Well crafted.
andrea
Wow, this was one of the best collections of poetry I have read in a long time. I am so enchanted by trees and the natural world. These poems put into words what cannot be said or said enough.
Vance Halfaker
I love Berry, and a handful of the poems in this book are a real credit to his talent and insight. However, the book as a whole did not measure up to my expectations.
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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."
More about Wendell Berry...
Jayber Crow Hannah Coulter The Unsettling of America: Culture and Agriculture The Collected Poems, 1957-1982 Sex, Economy, Freedom, and Community: Eight Essays

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