Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Happy Birthday to Poet Wendell Berry

by Gary Berg-Cross

It’s Wendell Berry’s birthday.  He was born on August 5, 1934. WB is known as a prolific American novelist, essayist, poet, and environmental activist. Well he is also prominent as a cultural critic, and notable as a hybrid academic-urban-farmer with a poetic attitude towards nature. In 2012 he gave the 43rd Jefferson Lecture (IT ALL TURNS ON AFFECTION) which is perhaps the highest award given in the humanities this side of the Noble Prize for Literature.

I will say, from my own belief and experience, that imagination thrives on contact, on tangible connection. For humans to have a responsible relationship to the world, they must imagine their places in it. To have a place, to live and belong in a place, to live from a place without destroying it, we must imagine it. By imagination we see it illuminated by its own unique character and by our love for it. By imagination we recognize with sympathy the fellow members, human and nonhuman, with whom we share our place. By that local experience we see the need to grant a sort of preemptive sympathy to all the fellow members, the neighbors, with whom we share the world. As imagination enables sympathy, sympathy enables affection. And it is in affection that we find the possibility of a neighborly, kind, and conserving economy.

                 From AWARDS & HONORS: 2012 JEFFERSON LECTURER

                 Wendell E. Berry Lecture   “IT ALL TURNS ON AFFECTION”

He’s a needed voice and we can celebrate with a poem that finds comfort in the natural world and not just its Wordswothian scenery.  Describing his poetry & essays in 1978 Robert Joseph Collins  wrote A Secular Pilgrimage: Nature, Place, and Moralilty in the Poetry of Wendell Berry.

Here is a poem that illustrates pretty much encompasses much of above and speaks a bit of despair & comfort in troubled times:

When despair 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 for their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

                From http://www.poemhunter.com/poem/the-peace-of-wild-things/

No comments: