Collection of Poetry - G Wendell.pdf - 19771-10A Wendell Berry Life Work Cvr b i o g r a p h y n at u r e Peters \u201cThe wonderful thing about this

Collection of Poetry - G Wendell.pdf - 19771-10A Wendell...

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Unformatted text preview: 19771-10A Wendell Berry Life & Work Cvr 5/10/10 b i o g r a p h y / n at u r e Peters “The wonderful thing about this collection of essays is that it demonstrates just how varied and far-reaching Berry’s influence has been and how meaningful his work is to his readers in so many different ways.”—Resurgence Wendell Berry’s essays, novels, and poems have long given voice to a provocative but consistent philosophy, one that extends far beyond its agrarian core to include elements of sociology, the natural sciences, politics, religion, and philosophy. Wendell Berry: Life and Work examines this wise and original thinker, appraising his written work and exploring his influence as an activist and artist. Jason Peters has assembled a broad variety of writers to examine aspects of Berry’s diverse yet cohesive body of work. Also included are highly personal glimpses of Wendell Berry: his career, academic influence, and unconventional lifestyle. As one of America’s most profound and honest thinkers, Berry embraces a life that sustains him not by easy purchase and haste but by physical labor and patience, not by mindless acquiescence to a centralized economy but by careful attention to local ways and wisdom. Together, the contributors illuminate Berry as a complex man of place and community with an astonishing depth of domestic, intellectual, filial, and fraternal attributes. Jason Peters is associate professor of English at Augustana College in Rock Island, Illinois. $21.95 52195 se ries editor: Norman Wirzba The University Press of Kentucky Cover photograph by Guy Mendes 9 780813 192574 Kentucky Culture of the Land: A Series in the New Agrarianism Wendell Berry LIFE AND WORK “Anyone unacquainted with Wendell Berry—man of letters, farmer, recipient of numerous awards, modern-day Jeremiah, and iconoclast of contemporary culture—will find no better overview of his life and ideas than this collection of reminiscences, literary criticism, and tributes. This is a book to be read with a pencil so that passages can be savored and pondered.”—Library Journal Wendell Berry LIFE AND WORK Edited by Jason Peters Praise for Wendell Berry: Life and Work “Trying to keep up with the prolific writings of farmer-poet-essayist Wendell Berry leaves one both grateful and breathless. This rich and varied assembly is the next-best thing to Berry’s own work and will send the reader eagerly back to the original poems, stories, and essays. Here many skilled voices diagnose, extend, celebrate, and affirm a whole range of his art and ideas—and illuminate the striking example of his life as well. Berry’s moral and agrarian vision is taking an ever deeper hold in America, and this book will help it happen.” —Ronald Jager, author of Eighty Acres: Elegy for a Family Farm “This volume is of great value and importance. What emerges from these various writings (which include telling personal memories) is the greatness of this man, good and wise at the same time. His talents as a writer and poet include those of a historian and a prophet. More and more Americans—entire generations—ought to hear his voice and read him.” —John Lukacs, author of At the End of an Age “Though the ‘characters’ herein are real people, there is magic in this book that rivals the best of Wendell Berry’s writings. Over and over we see solitary readers grappling with Berry’s art and thought amid struggles and in places unknown to the author.” —David James Duncan, author of God Laughs and Plays: Churchless Sermons in Response to the Preachments of the Fundamentalist Right “This book welcomes into community all who read Wendell Berry’s work habitually and with mounting desire for a sane culture. It is good to have neighbors who share the gratitude and even affection we feel for a man whom most of us have not met. These writers confirm our sense that reading Berry is one of the most important things we do.” —Ellen F. Davis, author of Wondrous Depth: Preaching the Old Testament “This is a superb collection. Berry is one of America’s greatest social critics, essayists, and poets, and the grand simplicity and unity of his life and thoughts emerge from the fascinating details of his personal history, captured beautifully in the words of his friends.” —David Ehrenfeld, author of Swimming Lessons: Keeping Afloat in the Age of Technology Praise for Wendell Berry: Life and Work, continued “What a joy to read Wendell Berry: Life and Work, a rich collection of personal stories, literary critiques, and thoughtful reflections about Wendell Berry’s life and work—all essays written by friends who know him best. It is all here in this wonderful collection of essays.” —Frederick Kirschenmann, Distinguished Fellow, Leopold Center, Iowa State University “Wendell Berry has revitalized American agrarianism with his uncompromising good sense, quiet urgency, and graceful style. This generous collection of reminiscences, insights, and storytelling from the who’s who of American agrarianism ably demonstrates the power of one person to influence an entire generation. Wendell Berry: Life and Work is worthy of the man it honors. —William Vitek, coeditor of Rooted in the Land: Essays on Community and Place Wendell Berry Culture of the Land: A Series in the New Agrarianism This series is devoted to the exploration and articulation of a new agrarianism that considers the health of habitats and human communities together. It demonstrates how agrarian insights and responsibilities can be worked out in diverse fields of learning and living: history, science, art, politics, economics, literature, philosophy, religion, urban planning, education, and public policy. Agrarianism is a comprehensive worldview that appreciates the intimate and practical connections that exist between humans and the earth. It stands as our most promising alternative to the unsustainable and destructive ways of current global, industrial, and consumer culture. Series Editor Norman Wirzba, Duke University, N.C . Advisory Board Wendell Berry, Port Royal, Ky. Ellen Davis, Duke University, N.C . Patrick Holden, Soil Association, United Kingdom Wes Jackson, Land Institute, Kans. Gene Logsdon, Upper Sandusky, Ohio Bill McKibben, Middlebury College, Vt. David Orr, Oberlin College, Ohio Michael Pollan, University of California at Berkeley, Calif. Jennifer Sahn, Orion Magazine, Mass. Vandana Shiva, Research Foundation for Science, Technology & Ecology, India Bill Vitek, Clarkson University, N.Y. Wendell Berry  LIFE AND WORK Edited by Jason Peters THE UNIVERSITY PRESS OF KENTUCKY Publication of this volume was made possible in part by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. “Introduction” copyright © 2007 by Jason Peters “Ain’t They the Berries!” copyright © 2007 by Ed McClanahan “Words Addressed to Our Condition Exactly” copyright © 2007 by Scott Russell Sanders “Letters from a Humble Radical” copyright © 2007 by Wes Jackson “Wendell Berry: Agrarian Artist” copyright © 2007 by Gene Logsdon “Education, Heresy, and the ‘Deadly Disease of the World’” copyright © 2007 by Jason Peters “Wendell’s Window and the Wind’s Eye” copyright © 2007 by James Baker Hall “Fidelity” copyright © 2007 by Katherine Dalton “A Long Shelf ” copyright © 2007 by Jack Shoemaker “Afterword” copyright © 2007 by George Core Copyright © 2007 by The University Press of Kentucky Scholarly publisher for the Commonwealth, serving Bellarmine University, Berea College, Centre College of Kentucky, Eastern Kentucky University, The Filson Historical Society, Georgetown College, Kentucky Historical Society, Kentucky State University, Morehead State University, Murray State University, Northern Kentucky University, Transylvania University, University of Kentucky, University of Louisville, and Western Kentucky University. All rights reserved. Editorial and Sales Offices: The University Press of Kentucky 663 South Limestone Street, Lexington, Kentucky 40508-4008 11 10 09 08 07 5 4 3 2 1 Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Wendell Berry : life and work / [edited by] Jason Peters. p. cm. — (Culture of the land) Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN 978-0-8131-2442-1 (alk. paper) 1. Berry, Wendell, 1934– I. Peters, Jason, 1963– PS3552.E75Z96 2007 818'.5409—dc22 [B] 2007005962 This book is printed on acid-free recycled paper meeting the requirements of the American National Standard for Permanence in Paper for Printed Library Materials. Manufactured in the United States of America. Member of the Association of American University Presses For Tanya and Wendell Berry Contents Foreword xi Stanley Hauerwas Acknowledgments xiii Introduction 1 Jason Peters Ain’t They the Berries! 12 Ed McClanahan Wendell Berry on War and Peace; Or, Port William versus the Empire 17 Bill Kauffman Words Addressed to Our Condition Exactly 34 Scott Russell Sanders The Best Noise in the World 45 Donald Hall Wendell Berry’s Political Vision 49 Kimberly K. Smith How Wendell Berry Single-Handedly Preserved Three Hundred Years of Agrarian Wisdom 60 David Kline Memory and Hope in the World of Port William 66 John Leax Politics, Nature, and Value in Wendell Berry’s “Art of the Commonplace” 76 Eric Trethewey Berry Britannica 88 John Lane Wendell Berry and the Twentieth-Century Agrarian “Series” 96 Allan Carlson A Citizen of the Real World 113 Bill McKibben Sexuality and the Sacramental Imagination: It All Turns on Affection 119 P. Travis Kroeker x Contents A Practical Education: Wendell Berry the Professor 137 Morris A. Grubbs An Economy of Gratitude 142 Norman Wirzba Letters from a Humble Radical 156 Wes Jackson Wendell Berry and the Limits of Populism 173 Eric T. Freyfogle Hemingway’s Nick and Wendell Berry’s Art 192 David Crowe At His Desk as on His Land 209 Hayden Carruth Wendell Berry and the Traditionalist Critique of Meritocracy 212 Jeremy Beer Looking the Technological Gift Horse in the Mouth 230 Sven Birkerts Wendell Berry: Agrarian Artist 241 Gene Logsdon Education, Heresy, and the “Deadly Disease of the World” 256 Jason Peters Wendell’s Window and the Wind’s Eye 282 James Baker Hall The Art of Buying Nothing 287 Barbara Kingsolver Fidelity 296 Katherine Dalton Wendell Berry and the Alternative Tradition in American Political Thought 300 Patrick J. Deneen A Long Shelf 316 Jack Shoemaker Afterword 319 George Core Chronology 325 Selected Bibliography 329 List of Contributors 335 Index 339 Foreword IN THE PRESENCE OF THE PAST Sheldon Wolin has a wonderful essay titled “Tending and Intending a Constitution: Bicentennial Misgivings,” which provides categories that make clear the significance of Wendell Berry’s work as well as these essays in this book. Wolin suggests that “tending” and “intending” characterize two persistent modes of thinking about politics that confronted one another during the ratification of the American Constitution. A politics of “intending” Wolin describes as one shaped by the language of contract in which a system of power seeks to ensure a future by bringing all life under a single rational order. A politics of intending comes fully to fruition in our time by the development of the “science” of administration that legitimates the expert as the power behind the throne of those who rule us. In contrast, a politics of “tending” is best identified with what we do when we look after another, as in tending the sick or a garden. Tending requires “active care of things close at hand.” To “tend” is to care for objects whose very being requires that they be treated as historical and biographical beings. Such a politics requires the existence of a political culture comprised of shared beliefs, habits, practices, and memories that define the particularity of a place and determine how the future will be negotiated. Wolin suggests that in such a setting politics is best understood, not as something practiced separate from the ordinary, but rather as a form of cultivation analogous to tending fields or flocks. Wendell Berry obviously exemplifies a politics of “tending.” That he does so, moreover, helps us understand why his life as a farmer, husband, father, and friend, and why his poems, novels, and essays, are of a piece. Berry farms as he writes and he writes as he farms. Each word is cultivated just as each row is carefully plowed. As many of these essays witness, he cares for friends the way he writes, and he writes with the care demanded by the love of friends. Yet each friend, just as each field of his farm, requires different “tending.” Moreover, as is clear from these essays, Berry depends on being befriended by friend and land because he recognizes he can give only because of what he has first received. I call attention to Wolin’s account of intending and tending in order to anticipate an oft-made criticism that Berry’s agrarianism is utopian. But if Wolin is right about the politics of tending, and if the essays in this book rightly describe Berry, then it is clear Berry’s life and work are not utopian but as real as the dirt he farms. That Berry’s work has ever been considered “unrealistic” is xii Stanley Hauerwas surely because of the unhappy dominance of the politics of intending in our time. Berry’s politics is as real as the next poem he writes, the meal Berry and Tanya share with friends, and the crop soon to be harvested. Indeed, this book itself is testimony that Berry and his friends cannot be dismissed as “idealist,” if for no other reason than their determined “earthiness,” which is prominently displayed by the sense of humor that pervades these essays. I suspect that Berry will at once be a bit embarrassed by this book but also be grateful to learn the joy his work has given his friends. These are celebratory essays that make the reader happy. That a book of essays can do that in our day testifies to the extraordinary power of Berry’s life and work. I often think that Berry’s novels do what is next to impossible in our time, and that is make goodness compelling. I usually hate sweetness because it always threatens to become sentimentality, and sentimentality is, I think, the enemy of the good. But Jayber Crow, for example, like so much of Berry’s work, is a sweet story about goodness wrought from the hardness of life. What a remarkable achievement rightly celebrated by almost every essay in this book. When a book of this sort is published, the subject of the book—I speak from personal experience—cannot help but think, “They must think I’ve come to the end of the row. I have nothing else to say. I may even be dead.” But everyone who writes in this book does so with the knowledge that Wendell Berry is anything but dead. Berry’s unrelenting attack on the abstractions that underwrite the current war in Iraq are a sure sign that he has not come to the end of the line. Indeed, these essays help us know better how alive Berry is. Those who have written these essays have tended to Wendell Berry’s “tending.” Therefore these essays will help inscribe on our hearts the habits of tending. Read this book slowly. Read this book joyfully. Read this book again. In doing so you will discover the essays do what they were meant to do; that is, after having read these wonderful, joyful essays you will discover you cannot wait to read more Wendell Berry. I take this to be a tribute to the tending to Berry these essays so richly exhibit. We live in a world dominated by the “intending,” which means we need not only Berry’s work but the work that Berry’s work makes possible. What a hopeful book this is. Stanley Hauerwas Gilbert T. Rowe Professor of Theological Ethics Duke Divinity School, Duke University Acknowledgments I’M GRATEFUL FOR the assistance I received from the Academic Initiatives Fund and the Center for Vocational Reflection, both at Augustana College. Thanks also to Connie Ghinazzi, Nick Barrett Stirrett, Mary Sutherland, Norman Wirzba, Bill Kauffman, Jeremy Beer, Ron Jager, George Core, and Barry Lopez. I’m happy to acknowledge the help, advice, and friendship of Paul Schellinger, Dave Crowe, Mike Nolan, Tom Thompson, Scott Sanders, and especially Steve Wrinn. Thanks to Guy Mendes for providing the excellent photographs reproduced here, and to my friend the monk Zosimas (né Miles Belcher) for introducing me to Wendell Berry’s work. For their contributions untold and untellable, I thank my parents, Janet and Richard Peters, and especially my wife, Kristin. For their many kindnesses to me, I thank Tanya and Wendell Berry, to whom this volume is dedicated. “You are a hero among those who have been wounded and offended by industrial living and yearn for a simpler and more natural and more feeling relation to the natural world. I should add that you wouldn’t be as good a man as you are if you were not a member of Tanya, and she of you.”—Wallace Stegner, “A Letter to Wendell Berry” Photograph by Guy Mendes from Light at Hand, reprinted by permission of Gnomon Press Jason Peters  Introduction I desire to speak somewhere without bounds; like a man in a waking moment, to men in their waking moments; for I am convinced that I cannot exaggerate enough even to lay the foundation of a true expression. —Henry David Thoreau, Walden (1854) Though I have had many of these ideas consciously in mind for several years, I have found them extraordinarily difficult to write about. . . . But they are ideas of great usefulness, and I am eager to have a hand in their revival. —Wendell Berry, The Long-Legged House (1969) IN 1862 EMERSON said that “no truer American existed than Thoreau.” In context the remark was instructive, for it followed fast upon the punning observation that Thoreau “had no talent for wealth” and that “he knew how to be poor without the least hint of squalor or inelegance.”1 But out of context—next Friday at happy hour, for example—the remark is inscrutable. We Americans apparently have talent for little else. We seldom depart from the script written for us by the Magic Hand of the “free” market. We don’t excel at any form of consumer restraint, to say nothing of dissent. If advertising were a virus, most of us would be dead, taking to our graves the suspicion that Thoreau was seditious and unpatriotic—a true crackbrain but not a true American. For Thoreau, also punning, admonished us to “cultivate poverty like a garden herb, like sage.” He warned us “of enterprises that require new clothes, and not rather a new wearer of clothes.” He said, “A man is rich in proportion to the number of things which he can afford to let alone.”2 That such advice portends disaster for the unassailable gross domestic product hasn’t inhibited one of Thoreau’s worthiest heirs from repeating it. Wendell Berry says plainly that we “must achieve the character and acquire the skills to live much poorer than we do.” He says that “virtually all of our consumption now is extravagant, and virtually all of it consumes the world.” He reminds us that “to have everything but money is to have much.”3 This is more seditious and unpatriotic talk; it offends against the unim1 2 Jason Peters peachable moral code known as the American Way. And yet one contributor here says in Emersonian fashion that Berry is “perhaps our greatest patriot”; several others see in Berry a reinvented Thoreau. Neither Thoreau nor Berry suffers damage by the comparison. One went to the woods to live deliberately; the other went home to live defensibly. Both built small domiciles out of reused lumber, one on the ground beside a pond and the other on stilts alongside a river. As writers both are keen to etymological impertinence: “Of a life of luxury the fruit is luxury,” Thoreau says, “whether in agriculture, or commerce, or literature, or art”; “we are acting out the plot of a murderous paradox,” Berry says, “an ‘economy’ that leads to extravagance.”4 Both require mindfulness with respect to food: Thoreau says, “It is hard to provide and cook so simple and clean a diet as will not offend the imagination”; Berry says, “I dislike the...
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