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The Selected Poems of Wendell Berry

4.37  ·  Rating details ·  1,100 ratings  ·  79 reviews
The Selected Poems of Wendell Berry gathers one hundred poems written between 1957 and 1996. Chosen by the author, these pieces have been selected from each of nine previously published collections. The rich work in this volume reflects the development of Berry’s poetic sensibility over four decades. Focusing on themes that have occupied his work for years--land and nature ...more
Paperback, 192 pages
Published August 6th 1999 by Counterpoint (first published October 1st 1998)
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May 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Dolors by: That familiar inner voice
Shelves: poetry, read-in-2017
If I had to define the spirit of Berry’s poetry, I would appeal to the link that man is capable of stablishing between his secluded self and the earth that sustains him. The harmony of man’s life, and finally of his future survival and eventual death, depends on the profundity of that connection and the respect with which he treats the gift of life in all its forms, and the natural cycle that leads all living things to an ineludible end.

Berry doesn’t moralize or engage on superficial eulogy abo
Jeanette (Again)
There are some poets from whom one poem is really all I needed, no matter how much of their other work I may read.
I could read my favorite Wendell Berry poem fifty or a hundred times in a row, and cry every single time. And that tells you just about everything you need to know about me. So I share it with you here.

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 wh
Barnabas Piper
Sep 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I’ve tried to read some of Berry’s fiction and struggled to gain traction (not because I disliked it, just wrong time and frame of mind). His poetry, however is magnificent. Like any prolific poet he’s written so many of varying styles that I do not love every one. But the ones I love are indelibly beautiful.
Oct 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
This is an incredible poetry collection that spans years of Berry's life, reflecting his experiences and growth and thoughts over time. The poems are very accessible, even if you aren't a huge poetry reader (like me!). I found it very easy to read a few each night. He writes on topics of home, land, loss, cultural changes, and relationships in ways that feel profoundly personal and real. And my copy of the book is just full of dog-eared pages and marked passages that I hope to return to over the ...more
Aug 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
"The wheel of eternity is turning
in time, its rhymes, austere,
at long intervals returning,
sing in the mind, not in the ear." -Wendell Berry, from "From the Distance"

The 2017 documentary Look & See: A Portrait of Wendell Berry restructured my worldview, my understanding of history and modernity and the ties binding rural and urban peoples, so I had to buy this book containing ninety of Berry's poems, selected by Berry himself in 1998. The earnest ease these poems take in their Biblical diction, t
Jun 04, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry
Once I was given the great gift of Wendell Berry's poem "Do Not Be Ashamed," which can be found in this selection of his poetry.

"Do Not Be Ashamed"

You will be walking some night
in the comfortable dark of your yard
and suddenly a great light will shine
round about you, and behind you
will be a wall you never saw before.
It will be clear to you suddenly
that you were about to escape,
and that you are guilty: you misread
the complex instructions, you are not
a member, you lost your card
or never had one. An
Jessie Kennedy
Dec 14, 2020 rated it liked it
Ugh I struggle with poetry! Really trying to learn to like it but it is tough sometimes.
This collection had some real gems about nature and love but a few misses as well. The writer had kind of a neocolonial perspective sometimes which was not great.
Demetrius Rogers
May 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
I read a review one time that said Wendell Berry was a national treasure. I think that's a great assessment. This dude is amazing. I actually consider him a prophet, of sorts. A voice of one crying in the wilderness. A voice calling moderns back to simplicity, faithfulness, humility, honor - honor of roots, soil, sweat, and toil. The writings of WB act somewhat like a ballast to me. Some authors help me think big, others help me think small. Berry does the latter, and reminds me that it's not in ...more
Oct 31, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5 stars.
I am not qualified to rate poetry, I can only share what speaks to me. And these did:

The Broken Ground

The opening out and out,
body yielding body:
the breaking
through which the new
comes, perching
above its shadow
on the piling up
darkened broken old
husks of itself:
bud opening to flower
opening to fruit opening
to the sweet marrow
of the seed--
from what was, from
what could have been.
What is left
is what is


Did I believe I had a clear mind?
It was like the water of a river
flowing shal
Stephanie Dayonot
Aug 18, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Wendell Berry is my favorite poet of them all. His poetry speaks to me on every spiritual and human level. His poems have changed my life. Simple as that. His words soothe and heal my soul when it is most in need. I'll be forever grateful that he took the time to write down his words and share them with the world. Most of my favorites of his are in this collection. I have so many of them memorized, thanks, in part, to knowing them by way of song via the great composer Malcolm Dalglish. Others, I ...more
Aug 29, 2008 rated it it was amazing
I've known of Wendell Berry all my life, his poetry being some of my father's favorite. But I have never read much Berry. I'm taking a poetry class this semester and we have been encouraged to read good poetry, because that is considered one of the best ways to become a better poet. I am starting off my reading list with Berry, from this volume I found on the bookshelf of my professor in whose house I'm living while he and his family are away in Latvia on the Fullbright Fellowship. ...more
May 03, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
I picked this book upon a recommendation for this book as a follow up to Mary Oliver's poetry. It was similar in tone but new content and overall it is a great paring with Oliver. A few gems lay hidden here, enjoy! ...more
Sep 03, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry, favorites
As my father lay dying, I read Berry's poetry to him at his bedside. It's a wonderful collection, deeply moving and spiritual. ...more
Feb 01, 2014 rated it liked it
I didn't love as many of these poems as with other collections; it felt like these was his academic, proof-of-being-a-serious-poet-collection. But I see why he is considered to have "returned American poetry to a Wordsworthian clarity of purpose." NTYBR. Simple, timeless, spiritual.

His epic Window Poems held incredible promise, I was reading them out loud, enjoying the tone, pace, and resonance since I too love to look out windows especially in my family home. It was epic and spanned generation
May 02, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Wendell Berry's poems are a respite from a busy world. Reading one or two each day was an escape, a lovely quiet detour that laid bare the essence of some beautiful thing that was deserving of a pause, of a moment, of a breath. ...more
Mar 28, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
This is my favorite book. I read it regularly. When I travel I take it with me. A piece of my soul is between its covers.
Mar 13, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: own, poetry, kentucky
Let's just say that if I ever had a son, I'd be seriously tempted to name him Wendell.

Lovely and brilliant as always.
Sep 28, 2019 added it
Shelves: poetry
'... To remember,
to hear and remember, is to stop
and walk on again
to a livelier, surer measure.
It is dangerous
to remember the past only
for its own sake, dangerous
to deliver a message
you did not get. '

'Whatever is singing
is found, awaiting the return
of whatever is lost.'

'But in his dream he knew their way
was prepared, and in their time
they would rise up joyful. '

'Outside the window
is a roofed wooden tray
he fills with seeds for the birds.
They make a sort of dance
as they descend and light
and f
Melody Riggs
May 10, 2020 rated it really liked it
I’ve read a few of Berry’s poems here and there, but never a full volume of his works. I picked this one because I love “Peace of the Wild Things” and that is included. Other than a few poems that I really just didn’t connect to it “get,” I really enjoyed Berry’s writing and deep connection to nature along with our humanity. I’ve also been spending a lot of time outside due to COVID 19 quarantine, so I’ve been reading more books about nature/with nature themes lately and that’s perhaps also why ...more
Jun 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Wendell Berry's poetry has been such an unexpected, steadying gift amidst a tumultuous season for me and so much of the world. His words are rich, earthy, thoughtful, and direct his readers to see beyond immediate circumstances. I'm grateful and encouraged by his exhortations to "not tax [your life] with forethought of grief," to "be joyful though you have considered all the facts," and to "practice resurrection." ...more
Jan 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I was reminded of Whitman’s Leaves of Grass, and the Bible’s Song of Solomon, among other writings, when I read this collection. Stirring, beautiful, and poignant; celebration of life, and of death.
Shonna Siegers
Feb 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
Oh Wendell, I don’t live every line or poem, but the ones I do love, I relish every word. Thank you for putting into words the connection with nature I often fail to find for myself.
Apr 03, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I really love a few of Wendell Berry's poems. However, most of this collection felt repetitive in themes and imagery and frankly I was bored. ...more
Jun 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
was read to sleep w/ them during a bout of insomnia so i will cherish them if not for its quality then for the memory.
Sep 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
I read this book very quickly while looking for a poem about marriage for a friend’s wedding. I didn’t find exactly what I was looking for but I enjoyed it anyway! I should read it again more slowly. I especially related to the one about throwing away the mail.
Claire Nolan
Dec 31, 2019 rated it really liked it
Nature poems are always nice. I think my understanding of them was low in part due to how little I've interacted with poetry. ...more
Apr 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A Meeting

In a dream I meet
my dead friend. He has,
I know, gone long and far,
and yet he is the same
for the dead are changeless.
They grow no older.
It is I who have changed,
grown strange to what I was.
Yet I, the changed one,
ask: "How you been?"
He smiles and looks at me.
"I've been eating peaches
off some mighty fine trees."

So nice Wendell beb
Sep 01, 2011 rated it really liked it
I really love Berry's poetry. There's such a beauty to it...he's really made me fall in love with poetry again. His poetry is understandable on the first read, yet brings so much meaning to his words that I find myself reading them again and again. :) ...more
Jan 21, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
There is much to love in this collection. It includes some of my favorites: The Peace of Wild Things, The Country of Marriage, Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front . . .

"You are holding in your body the dark seed of sleep."
Paul Blaney
Jul 08, 2013 rated it really liked it
Here's a poet with his feet firmly planted in the (Kentucky) soil. Spiritual, environmental, and yet profound in its simplicity. I was excited to discover this American voice and will want to read more. ...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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“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.”
“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.”
More quotes…