Lawrence's Reviews > A Timbered Choir: The Sabbath Poems, 1979-1997

A Timbered Choir by Wendell Berry
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May 22, 12

Read from February 24 to May 22, 2012

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. Just examine a repeated theme: That all growth (leaves, trees, etc.) is a form of light. Wonderful.

In my opinion, the later poems (1996 and 97)are not as successful as the earlier (with the exception of 1997.I and IV). Also, When Mr. B's poems express anger, as a few do, they are not very good in my opinion. Like almost all poems that are overtly political, these are strident. So, I think Mr. B could have learned better the lesson of his Amish neighbor in the bad (my opinion!) poem in 1995.IV. A few of the poems are sappy. But, look, to be sappy is a risk of writing poetry and producing it sometimes requires courage.

Mr. B. is a good rhymer with good cadence. He leaves rhyme, however, as the poems go on. This is successful also with a few exceptions (e.g., the political-type poems).

These are keepers.
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