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4.24  ·  Rating details ·  755 ratings  ·  112 reviews
No one writes like Wendell Berry. Whether essay, novel, story, or poem, his inimitable voice rings true, as natural as the land he has farmed in Kentucky for over 40 years.

Following the widely praised Given, this new collection offers a masterful blend of epigrams, elegies, lyrics, and letters, with the occasional short love poem. Alternately amused, outraged, and resigned
Hardcover, 144 pages
Published October 20th 2009 by Counterpoint (first published October 10th 2009)
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Average rating 4.24  · 
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Dec 11, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Wendell Berry is mad, he has had enough of how things are going. He is not only writing about it, he protested with Bill McKibben and James Hansen at the Capitol Power Plant in Washington, D.C. re climate change.

1. How much poison are you willing
to eat for the success of the free
market and global trade? Please
name your preferred poisons.

2. For the sake of goodness, how much
evil are you willing to do?
Fill in the following blanks
with the names of your favorite
evils and acts of hatred
Mar 31, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
This is my first full collection of Wendell Berry. I've read him here and there, even used part of a poem as my quote of the day, once:

"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.

But this was my first, and he's speaking my language. -Especially right now - I'm writing this on the last day
James Murphy
Mar 13, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

Suppose we did our work
like the snow, quietly, quietly,
leaving nothing out.

Lovely, isn't it? I've never read Wendell Berry before. I was pleased to see how attuned I am to his work. Part of it may be the South he writes about and is influenced by as well as the bucolic nature of his attentions. Another factor is that he thinks Kentucky but always with a cosmic and human perspective rather than concerning himself with the social or political thing Kentucky is. These poems are about man'
C. Hollis Crossman
Jul 17, 2017 rated it liked it
Berry's ability to filter love of nature through so many lenses that it never becomes boring or passé is truly awe-inspiring. His seeming antipathy toward anything hinting at technological progress or the human imprint on nature is a little harder to swallow. The difficulty doesn't arise from disagreement with Berry's sentiments (Blake's "dark satanic mills" are indeed hateful and ugly) so much as skepticism toward his conclusions. The agrarian idealism he promotes is great if you can attain it, ...more
Sep 05, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2015, poetry
"In our consciousness of time
we are doomed to the past
The future we may dream of
but can only know it after
it has come and gone.
The present too we know
only as the past. When
we say "This now is
present, the heat, the breeze,
the rippling water," it is past.
Before we knew it, before
we said "now" it was gone.

If the only time we live
is the present, and if the present
is immeasurably short (or
long), then by the measure
of the measurers we don't
exist at all, which seems
improbable, or we
Miles Smith
Berry's most naturalistic recent work, and perhaps his most polemical. Its also my favorite of his collections, both for its evocative agrarianism and for its denunciation of modernity. Whatever excesses might be found with Berry's anti-modern ethos are balanced by Berry's admission that modernity itself is not a societal ill; instead, he indicts excesses of modernity.
Feb 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I will be leaving how many beauties over looked?


I have not paid enough attention. I have not been grateful enough.

First time reading Mr. Berry. His work took my back 20 Years to a dorm room in North Carolina where I was trying to understand the works of A. R. Ammons. Both are Southern writers and you get the sense that never really left the farm.
May 17, 2016 added it
I find it difficult to give a rating to books of poetry, so I'm refraining this time. I'd read some of Berry's poems in the past and loved them, which inspired me to check out a full book of his work. There are some in here that were really great and resonated with me (I earmarked several pages), as well as some entertaining letters. Others were just too preachy for me, with a message that hits you over the head. I usually prefer a bit more subtlety in poetry, even if I agree with the sentiment. ...more
Claudia Skelton
Aug 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
Inspiring poems by a writer I have read for many years - essays, poetry, stories. His passion for nature is evident throughout. The second half are his Sabbath poems; poems of meditation and observation that he creates when he takes his regular Sunday morning walks. His elderly age is reflected in many of the thoughts of this book.
I loved this in spite of his religious nature, maybe even in part because of it. I love the way he sees the world and all its sharp awfulness, but can still appreciate the beauty of a quiet day. The poem "Questionnaire" gave me chills and reminded me of Sylvain Neuvel's novel The Test.
Mar 30, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
This is my first foray into Wendell Berry's writings. I read this book of poetry in small increments, about five minutes each morning. I was able to dwell on it for the remainder of the day. I think it is a good approach. Poetry is meant to be considered and savored, not engulfed. I enjoyed the words, imagery, and messages.
Jennifer Fitzpatrick
Feb 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
“What I stand for is what I stand on” said Wendell Berry over 30 years ago...and his life’s work has conveyed that message. This simple collection of poems, letters, and prose celebrates nature, life, and love, and also clearly bemoans the loss of respect we humans have for the beauty that surrounds us. The Sabbath poems, inspired by Berry’s Sunday morning walks speak to the naturalist in each of us, evoking a spiritual connection to the land. Leavings is to be savored.
Jan 19, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2010, poetry
While more hit-and-miss than some of the Berry's other works, this one contains some lovely love poems both to his wife and to the land. I found in some of the poems that his politics outweighed his word choices- and that's a pity. Taken as a whole, the book is worth reading, but not Berry's best.
Rachel A. A.  Dawson
I've heard about Wendell Berry from a fellow friend and writer, and when I stumbled upon this little collection of poems at the bookstore a few days ago, I couldn't resist. I absolutely loved it-- his simple yet intricate words struck deep chords in me as he tackled topics I feel strongly about with such an elegance. I cannot wait to read more from him.
Jun 21, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A Lovely Picture

His passion for the earth and its creatures is made clear in this beautiful collection of work. He has a clear defined sense of space while marveling at how we best destroy it. An interesting and lovely journey.
Sep 24, 2013 rated it liked it

A rather interesting book of environmental poetry. Berry observes and interprets the rural life and he mourns assaults on healthy environments.
Mar 12, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This is the best book of poetry I've ever read. Truly beautiful. Highly recommended!
Jun 23, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: own, poetry
A beautiful collection of poems that highlight the best and worst of humanity and the impact on nature. A collection to savor and re-read.
Dustin DuFort Petty
Dec 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
My favorite living poet, I was delighted to find this collection that I hadn’t read before. Written in the previous decade, it’s dark but also just a tiny bit hopeful. His connection to the earth is so strong. I want to be Wendell Berry when I grow up. ⁣

“𝘐𝘧 𝘸𝘦 𝘩𝘢𝘷𝘦 𝘣𝘦𝘤𝘰𝘮𝘦 𝘢 𝘱𝘦𝘰𝘱𝘭𝘦 𝘪𝘯𝘤𝘢𝘱𝘢𝘣𝘭𝘦⁣
𝘰𝘧 𝘵𝘩𝘰𝘶𝘨𝘩𝘵, 𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘯 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘣𝘳𝘶𝘵𝘦-𝘵𝘩𝘰𝘶𝘨𝘩𝘵⁣
𝘰𝘧 𝘮𝘦𝘳𝘦 𝘱𝘰𝘸𝘦𝘳 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘮𝘦𝘳𝘦 𝘨𝘳𝘦𝘦𝘥⁣
𝘸𝘪𝘭𝘭 𝘵𝘩𝘪𝘯𝘬 𝘧𝘰𝘳 𝘶𝘴. ⁣

“𝘐𝘧 𝘸𝘦 𝘩𝘢𝘷𝘦 𝘣𝘦𝘤𝘰𝘮𝘦 𝘪𝘯𝘤𝘢𝘱𝘢𝘣𝘭𝘦 ⁣
𝘰𝘧 𝘥𝘦𝘯𝘺𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘰𝘶𝘳𝘴𝘦𝘭𝘷𝘦𝘴 𝘢𝘯𝘺𝘵𝘩𝘪𝘯𝘨,⁣
𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘯 𝘢𝘭𝘭 𝘵𝘩𝘢𝘵 𝘸𝘦 𝘩𝘢𝘷𝘦⁣
𝘸𝘪𝘭𝘭 𝘣𝘦 𝘵𝘢𝘬𝘦𝘯 𝘧𝘳𝘰𝘮 𝘶𝘴.⁣

“𝘐𝘧 𝘸𝘦 𝘩𝘢𝘷𝘦 𝘯𝘰
Kevin Naylor
Dec 31, 2017 rated it really liked it
After hearing many I respect talk about Wendell Berry I decided to give him a read. I took this book with me on a backpacking trip with my wife in Mt. Rainier over the summer. The book came to life in a way next to a creek and beneath the pines that it may not have simply sitting in my living room. His desire to help us slow down and value the present, the very things around us - nature especially -
aided me in my own moment of need to live presently.

There are a few lines/images from poems withi
Feb 12, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: poetry
Couldn't muster the patience to give it the shot it probably deserved . . . Liked some of the poems, like "Questionnaire," "An Embarrassment," and "The Shining Ones," but came across hardly any that I could really get into. I'm with him on the environmental concerns but at the same time annoyed by his heavy-handed critiques (rich coming from me, I know)—I think it's because I get such a Ron Swanson feel from him (I am reading him on Nick Offerman's recommendation, after all). Berry's religiosity ...more
Apr 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing

I go by a field where once
I cultivated a few poor crops.
It is now covered with young trees,
for the forest that belongs here
has come back and reclaimed its own.
And I think of all the effort
I have wasted and all the time,
and of how much joy I took
in that failed work and how much
it taught me. For in so failing
I learned something of my place,
something of myself, and now
I welcome back the trees.

-Wendell Berry
p. 96
Aug 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Some books of poetry can be consumed in a sitting or over a few days. Wendell Berry's words were so rich, so full of image and emotion that it felt best to nibble just a few small pages at a time, savoring each before moving on to the next. He moves us with the meanings in his words, but he also creates a world of art with the sounds of the words, sliding and tumbling into the mind's ear like the birdsongs featured in several of the poems.
Nov 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This brief collection of poems can be digested in one sitting - but it shouldn’t. My first exposure to Berry was memorable and inspiring. He has the ability to write about a place, a landscape, a moment in life and you fell like you are sitting side by side. Amazingly clear and concise poetry - loved it! Reading “Givings” next!
Kathy Duffy
May 31, 2019 rated it really liked it
Some truly excellent pieces in this volume of poetry by one of our great poets. "Questionairre" is one that I had to share with several friends. His poems are often about the destruction of the natural world by a country who sees on a commodity in a tree. I wish there was a wider audience for poetry -- it should be possible in a world relegated to tweet sized messages.
May 21, 2020 rated it really liked it
Stirring and comforting. Berry explores questions of existence and the beauty of nature in this lovely collection of poems. His themes feel relatable, while still offering depth. And this particular collection offers a range of styles and themes, all while somehow still feeling as though they have a shared thread.
Steven Kopp
Jun 21, 2017 rated it liked it
The most "provincial" of the three poetry books I last read (Life on Mars, Simic's Sixty Poems) but also the most explicitly philosophical. Sometimes it felt sanctimonious. I'll give Wendell Berry this: He made me want to take a long stroll by a river in the woods.
Sep 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I continue to adore Wendell Berry's works. A great new favorite of mine, and I look forward to reading more of his books. Like Mary Oliver, his work speaks to me- however, Berry speaks to the small country spirit that still resides in me after my college education.
Robert Cole
Sep 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
Simple and simply lovely. Honest, true, good---and that's Wendell Berry. I've read works of his that have affected me more deeply, but that probably says more about the state of my inner workings than his. He speaks from his core, and his core rings true. Heart of gold. A national treasure.
I adore this mans writing! His poetry is just so beautiful, and speaks deeply to the Kentuckian in me. The way he speaks of nature just feels me with so much wonder. If you’ve never read him but love poetry then don’t hesitate!
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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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“Shall we do without hope? Some days
there will be none. But now
to the dry and dead woods floor
they come again, the first
flowers of the year, the assembly
of the faithful, the beautiful,
wholly given to being.”
More quotes…