I come into the peace of wild things who do not tax their lives with forethought of grief. I come into the presence of still water. And I feel above me the day-blind stars waiting with their light. For a time I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.
The poems of Wendell Berry invite us to stop, to think, to see the world around us, and to savour what is good. Here are consoling verses of hope and of healing; short, simple meditations on love, death, friendship, memory and belonging; luminous hymns to the land, the cycles of nature and the seasons as they ebb and flow. Here is the peace of wild things.
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."
It is there in the news for us to read: the sixth extinction, the shocking disappearance of birds and insects (up to 70% of birds have disappeared in France in just a decade; the insect population of Germany has suffered a 75% decline in less than three decades), the death of the last male northern white rhino, imminent agricultural collapse due to dropping soil quality, plastic-choked oceans, the renewed vogue for open-pit mining, the tar sands, over-fishing, the death of the coral reefs, the cutting down of trees in cities and of entire old-growth forests outside of them. The list could, and does, go on. And in response to all this havoc, this wreckage, this brave new world of constant, catastrophic and irredeemable loss, what have we? An ever-faster, ever more desperately spinning wheel of extraction, production and consumption. And poetry. The poetry, e.g., of Wendell Berry.
People have for a long time experienced the urge to replace what is lost in the physical, material world with words, to preserve on paper what is otherwise being consigned to the void. The very process of destruction generates nostalgia – and, in the right hands, poetry. Berry’s poetry is alternately a testimony to the harrowing of his (and our) world and an ardent invocation of that once and still-glimpsed world.
The peace of wild things was in him in the writing and it is in us in the reading. That is something.
When despair for the world grows in me and I wake in the night at the least of sound in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be, I go and like down where the wood drake rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds. I come into the peace of the wild things who do not tax their lives with for thought of grief. I come into the presence of still water. And I feel above me the day-blind stars waiting for their light. For a time I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.
This was the first book of poetry I ever finished. I loved it. I read and reread each poem at least twice, sometimes as many as five times. His poems are about the earth, having a sense of place, growing older, and the things we have lost as we moved from an agrarian life. I don't give five stars lightly.
Forgot to update my Goodreads but this was my last read of January. This book was so beautifully written and strange. I've highlighted quite a lot of pages. I think I may have found my new favourite poet! I'd like to know what goes in the mind of Wendell Berry. He is just so wonderfully weird and perceptive. I love his writing style so I will be diving into his other works soon! Kudos.
well that took a baseball bat to my heart ! i am in awe! staggering. i don’t really have words. Berry’s voice feels so distinct, there are echoes tho - Wordsworth, Thomas. He reminds me mostly of Gluck. Some new favourite poems.
This is a selected - shall be getting to genuine collections soon.
This poignant collection of poems has a far more elegiac tone than I was expecting. Berry returns time and again to themes of loss and death, both human and environmental. Many of the poems are both lovenotes to and elegies for a kind of prelapsarian rural American Dream; a lost idyll worked by honest folk with hard-won old-time wisdom, living in harmony with nature and the seasons. Berry mourns the loss of this simpler, quieter time to the relentless advance of an uncaring, mechanised modern world.
Personally, the cynic in me questions whether the post-conquest Americas are a great example of human nobility, honesty and sustainable interaction with nature; I think the terminal decline on that continent in that regard started right about when the first Europeans stepped off their boats. Nevertheless, I get his point and the sentiment still resonates with me as someone who tries to live a simple, rural life and tread lightly on this planet.
I probably would've been more impressed if the last book of poetry I read wasn't Devotions: The Selected Poems of Mary Oliver, which was pretty much as close to perfection as nature poetry can be for me. I suppose it's not really a fair comparison, given that collection puts together Oliver's absolute best work cherrypicked from a career spanning almost half a century. Nevertheless, ultimately for me she is the superior nature poet.
Wendell Berry is one of my favorites, so a 5 star is not surprising. My husband asked if I’d leave this one on the coffee table in the porch for restful moments, so there it will stay awhile. A couple of favorites poems from here: “Below,” “Fall,” “Throwing Away the Mail,” “How to Be a Poet,” and “Another Descent” which I read aloud to my family who all enjoyed it immensely. My family all cross country skis as a passion, but we also farm full time. We will likely call Spring “the descent” moving forward.
Through the weeks of deep snow we walked above the ground on fallen sky, as though we did not come of root and leaf, as though we had only air and weather for our difficult home. But now as March warms, and the rivulets run like birdsong on the slopes, and the branches of light sing in the hills, slowly we return to earth.
One of America’s foremost nature writers as well as a pioneering environmentalist and critic of modernity. Berry is the poet laureate of Appalachia, the yeoman farmer and of a specific kind of Jeffersonian or Thoreauvian individualism. These poems, taken from the span of his career, are not great poems but small acts of conscience and persistence against the iniquities and corruption of society. Respect.
The beauty in this collection of poetry comes from the solace the author finds in the natural world. This isn’t wistful romanticism. Berry is very concerned with issues in his present day (there are poems against the Vietnam war), but emphasises the natural world as a sustaining force.
Loss is a big theme in this book. Berry doesn’t want to move on from what has been lost, or overcome the sadness. He is concerned with moving through loss, understanding it, and cherishing it.
I have found Wendell Berry’s poetry recently and have absolutely fallen in love with his style of writing, the place he writes from and the things he rights about. It is balm for the soul, peace for the busy mind and takes me to a place where I remember what’s right in the world. This volume is particularly beautiful but I will read more.
A beautiful thoughtfull mind at work. Enjoy these with your coffee, aloud or quietly . Among the poems of hope, sorrow, future and past you will find a favourite to go back to and recite, to remember and feel at peace or one with nature.
Gorgeous, sad, and perfectly applicable to the anxiety-inducing state of the world. These poems will resonate with those who find solace in nature. Similar to Mary Oliver’s poems, but more fraught with the concerns of modern society.
Wendell Berry has the unique ability to find and capture the beauty existing in perfectly average days, ordinary occurrences, and simple surroundings. My favorite poems in this collection are: To my Children, Fearing for Them The Sycamore Anger Against Beasts The Blue Robe My very favorite line in the book is from the poem titled “How to be a Poet”: There are no unsacred places; there are only sacred places and desecrated places.
How joyful to be together, alone as when we first were joined in our little house by the river long ago, except that now we know
each other, as we did not then; and now instead of two stories fumbling to meet, we belong to one story that the two, joining, made. And now
we touch each other with the tenderness of mortals, who know themselves: how joyful to feel the heart quake
at the sight of a grandmother, old friend in the morning light, beautiful in her blue robe!
XIV (from Sabbath Poems)
The team rests in shade at the edge of the half-harrowed field, the first warm morning of May. Wind breathes over the worked ground, through maples by the creek, moving every new leaf. The stream sings quietly in passing. Too late for frost, too early for flies, the air carries only birdsong, the long draft of wind through leaves. In this time I could stay forever. In my wish to stay forever, it stays forever, But I must go. Mortal and obliged, I shake off stillness, stand and go back to the waiting field, unending rounds.
The Peace of Wild Things
When despair for the world grows in me and I wake in the night at the least sound in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be, I go and lie down where the wood drake rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds. I come into the peace of wild things who do not tax their lives with forethought of grief. I come into the presence of still water. And I feel above me the day-blind stars waiting with their light. For a time I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.
Just the deepest sigh. Wendell’s Berry’s poems in this collection are all just a big ole sigh. They help me to breathe. They give perspective, they speak simplicity, they are seasonal, and they are a beautiful sigh of relief.
Much of this work was wasted on me, but I especially liked:
First, it’s title The Peace of Wild Things, "..wild things who do not tax their lives with forethought of grief"
And second, these non-sequential lines from his two-page poem entitled Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front.
1. So, friends, every day do something that won't compute. 2. Plant sequoias. 3. Be joyful though you have considered all the facts. 4. Be like the fox who makes more tracks than necessary, some in the wrong direction.
Absolutely wonderful: profound ruminations on the human and environmental cost of capitalism, politics and technological progress. Haiku-esque in style - snapshots of time and thought preserved in words. Echoes of Blake and Frost 💕
This is the first book of poetry I have ever read cover to cover. And it’s beautiful. Weighty words that cause you to slow down, ponder and unearth meaning in the everyday things and people around us that we do easily take for granted. One of the books of the year so far for me.
I am in awe at his words. A collection of poems I will begin to reread even more slowly than before, breathing in peace, the natural rhythm of life, and an appreciation for the small things and the diversity of seasons. Such depth of meaning is held in his words, I cannot wait to let their meaning sink in again.
Wise and realistic yet unapologetically and naturally hopeful.
Sabbath Poems XXIV: "And yet the light comes. And yet the light is here. Over the long shadows the late light moves in beauty through the living woods."
I love Berry's other writing more than I love his poetry. But I suspect that I will enjoy his poetry more as I get older. It has fewer hard edges and more comforting swathes than my favorite poets of the moment. I guess we'll see.
Surprise, surprise...yet another collection of Wendell Berry's is marked as five stars by yours truly. (It's getting less surprising as more years pass.)
In all seriousness, this collection is so very lovely. Berry's words never fail to hit the parts of my tender heart that ache for the broken world. And yet, amidst his blunt honesty, he sprinkles in such rich beauty from his observations of nature, human relationship, and the simplicity of learning from hands-on work we do as living beings in this universe.