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The Mad Farmer Poems

4.64  ·  Rating details ·  418 ratings  ·  40 reviews
During the otherwise quiet course of his life as a poet, Wendell Berry has become “mad” at what contemporary society has made of its land, its communities, and its past. This anger reaches its peak in the poems of the Mad Farmer, an open-ended sequence he’s found himself impelled to continue against his better instincts. These poems can take the shape of manifestos, medita ...more
Hardcover, 64 pages
Published November 1st 2008 by Counterpoint (first published September 1st 2008)
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Mar 03, 2017 added it
After reading these poems it is safe to conclude that Wendell Berry would despise having his work reviewed on Goodreads.
A few days after explaining to a friend that poetry is a genre that I generally avoid, or at least rarely turn to gladly, up pops a small collection by Wendell Berry in the local bookstore. Of course I had to read it, and it quickly moved the 'poetry genre' needle in the direction of my being likely to read more.

The poem I enjoyed the most was titled "The Reassurer", of which everybody should take some time to search out, and I won't be quoting here. However, here's some brief examples of other
Zach Turner
Feb 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
I'm coming to the conclusion that Wendell Berry may be one of the last great American writers. At least of the old style of American writers in love with the land and what it gives to us.

The Mad Farmer Poems is a beautiful little collection of conflations and conundrums concerning where we, as a society, are at, and worries about where we might be going. At once, in love with the earth and the soul, Berry brings these conceptions together to force the reader into seeing the damage we have done
Bruce Deming
Dec 25, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Well I recently saw Bill Moyer's interview with Wendell Berry (which is available on youtube by the way) so I know why Mr Berry is a bit mad.

The black willow trees on the bank of the river by his family farm are dying and the likely cause is the coal mining upriver doing some damage to the water upon which the black willows depend. Seems like a no brainer to me. I think I would be upset too.

Unfortunately I find these poems more interesting in many ways then his earlier writings of which I have b
'When I rise up
let me rise up joyful
like a bird.

When I fall
let me fall without regret
like a leaf.'

'... So, friends, every day do something
that won't compute. Love the Lord.
Love the world. Work for nothing.
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. ...
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers.
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias. ...
Laughter i
Dec 06, 2015 rated it it was amazing
"As soon as the generals and the politicos
can predict the motions of your mind,
lose it. Leave it as a sign
to mark the false trail, the way
you didn't go. Be like the fox
who makes more tracks than necessary,
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection."

Dec 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Somewhere between four and five, but I’ll go all-in. What I most enjoyed here is the tonal shift from ‘normal’ Berry. This collection of poems is bawdy and silly and exuberant in a way quite different from his Sabbath poems, his nonfiction, or his novels.
Jim Brammell
Jan 02, 2021 rated it really liked it
I really enjoy the wit and wisdom that Mr. Berry’s poems convey. I also am moved by his passion for the environment and his sanctity for the land and farming. Would have rated this collection a 5 but for Ed McClanahan’s dis-jointed ramblings.
jo ianni
Aug 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An incredible collection of poems written so well that the reading is maddening. Just another reason to continue reading the work of Wendell Barry.
Apr 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
I carry these poems with me everywhere in my mind.
Jun 13, 2018 rated it liked it
Delightful. Funny, quirky, close to a 5 but...a bit uneven, polemic on occasion.

Fruits and vegetables but Broutigan comes mind as does Gary Snyder.
Oct 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Tara Tetzlaff
Feb 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I don't know if there are enough stars in the sky for all that Wendell Berry's writing deserves. This is yet another volume of his work that I want to read, to memorize, to quote again and again! ...more
David Rawls
Nov 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a book of poems I will find myself reading again and again.
Dec 01, 2020 rated it it was ok
Sorry to disappoint those who enjoy these, but I have to say: Wendell Berry is not a good poet.
Anya Vanecek
Feb 01, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Wendell Barry is perfect. These poems are hysterical and also moving. Please read them.
Calvin Coon
Jun 27, 2021 rated it it was amazing
A moving, lyrical defense of humanity against the mechanistic reduction of our world by modernity. A prophet that we need to urgently hear.
Sam Peterson
Sep 19, 2021 rated it it was amazing
No more books by men this year. Used up my quota.
Mar 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
So blooming excellent. Philosophy as an applied science, as illustrated by poetry as itself.
Cheryl Gatling
What is this madness of which everyone speaks? I have read three times now through this little book, and I found neither delirium nor psychosis. Granted, I don't always agree with the mad farmer. I am more sociable. I can see the benefit of people gathering into cities, some of them. I look more kindly on the advances of science and on machines. The mad farmer may wish to plow his field with horses, as in the illustration on the cover, but let him try to sew a suit of clothes with only a single ...more
bibliotekker Holman
Feb 22, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This collection of poems is at times humorous, vitriolic, reflective, hopeful and at its best a meditation on the absurdity of the modern world. Within these brief pages, Berry's philosophy and vision is encapsulated in its briefest and most powerful form. The persona of the Mad Farmer, appearing in his writings over many decades is brought together here for the first time. An example is the Contrariness of the Mad Farmer can be found here ...more
Daniel Gualtieri
May 15, 2014 rated it really liked it
Beautiful poetry... Berry is an absolute master with so much to say about the world as it is and as it should be. This little collection includes (as the title implies) all of the poems Berry wrote through the voice of his "mad farmer" character, who, as the introduction points out, is not strictly a mouthpiece for Berry himself. The poetry is restorative and revolutionary, and highly recommended. ...more
Jan 06, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: nature, food
maybe not a collection of my most favorite wendell poems, but it includes that special one, the manifesto, that still gets me riled up. this collection gets higher ratings from me for the typeface and pictures than for its poetry. i'm still a big fan of his essays, especially 'the art of the commonplace.' ...more
Maureen E
Sep 02, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
poems written by Berry (with two by other writers) which follow a character who is supposedly not Berry but who bears a strong resemblance to him. I remember liking some of them, but I wasn’t blown away. [Oct. 2009]

Apr 18, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Beautiful and relatable (until sometimes in the poem it is made obvious woman = baby factory, and he wasn't actually talking to me to embrace this that and the other thing) but well, you know. What're you going to do? ...more
wes Goertzen
Nov 10, 2010 rated it it was amazing
this is a beautiful book. its large and beautifully done. the words are nice too. berry is witty and biting with his critique in poetry. he is reminiscent of the best the prophets had to offer. i think his language can be that powerful. these are poems that i love to read aloud.
Chuck Clenney
Oct 14, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Classic Wendell. Pulling the veil off from over our eyes and speaking clairvoyance to the true human condition and how to return to what is true.

A great reminder to reject those things that brutalize your soul and to rebel when destructive insanity becomes the norm.
Jan 10, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Berry at his best. This is truly a polemical work, as well as a book of astoundingly great poetry. Berry represents an old guard of left wing yet traditionalist agrarianism thankfully still alive in the United States.
Bob Paterson-watt
Aug 17, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Wow. Makes me want to live in Kentucky, somewhere close to the author of these poems. Made me laugh, had me sighing, a few tears, and some thoroughly honest takes on the human condition. A keeper, for sure.
Jan 28, 2010 rated it it was amazing
who cannot love a poet who comes up with such lines as: "Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias." the best book i have read in a long time... ...more
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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

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“When I rise up
let me rise up joyful
like a bird.

When I fall
let me fall without regret
like a leaf.”
“Dance,' they told me, and I stood still,
and while I stood quiet in line at the gate of the Kingdom, I danced.

'Pray,' they said, and I laughed,
covering myself in the earth's brightnesses,
and then stole off gray into the midst of a revel,
and prayed like an orphan.”
More quotes…