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About this poet

Poet, essayist, farmer, and novelist Wendell Berry was born on August 5, 1934, in New Castle, Kentucky. He attended the University of Kentucky at Lexington where he received a BA in English in 1956 and an MA in 1957.

Berry is the author of more than thirty books of poetry, essays, and novels. His collections of poetry include: Given (Shoemaker Hoard, 2005), A Timbered Choir: The Sabbath Poems 1979-1997 (Counterpoint, 1997), Entries: Poems (1994), Traveling at Home (1989), The Selected Poems of Wendell Berry (1988), Collected Poems 1957-1982 (1985), Clearing (1977), There Is Singing Around Me (1976), and The Broken Ground (1964).

His novels include A World Lost (1996), Remembering (1988), and The Memory of Old Jack. Berry is also the author of prose collections including The Unsettling of America: Culture & Agriculture (Counterpoint, 2004), Another Turn of the Crank (1995), Sex, Economy, Freedom, & Community (1993), Standing on Earth: Selected Essays (1991), and A Continuous Harmony: Essays Cultural and Agricultural (1972).

About his work, a reviewer for the Christian Science Monitor wrote: "Berry's poems shine with the gentle wisdom of a craftsman who has thought deeply about the paradoxical strangeness and wonder life."

He has taught at New York University and at the University of Kentucky. Among his honors and awards are fellowships from the Guggenheim and Rockefeller Foundations, a Lannan Foundation Award, and a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. Wendell Berry lives on a farm in Port Royal, Kentucky.

 

The Dance

I would have each couple turn,
join and unjoin, be lost
in the greater turning
of other couples, woven
in the circle of a dance,
the song of long time flowing

over them, so they may return,
turn again in to themselves
out of desire greater than their own,
belonging to all, to each,
to the dance, and to the song
that moves them through the night.

What is fidelity? To what
does it hold? The point
of departure, or the turning road
that is departure and absence
and the way home? What we are
and what we were once

are far estranged. For those
who would not change, time
is infidelity. But we are married
until death, and are betrothed
to change. By silence, so,
I learn my song. I earn

my sunny fields by absence, once
and to come. And I love you
as I love the dance that brings you
out of the multitude
in which you come and go.
Love changes, and in change is true.

Copyright © 2012 by Wendell Berry, from New Collected Poems. Reprinted by permission of Counterpoint.

Copyright © 2012 by Wendell Berry, from New Collected Poems. Reprinted by permission of Counterpoint.

Wendell Berry

Wendell Berry

Poet, essayist, farmer, and novelist Wendell Berry is the author of more than thirty books.

by this poet

poem

to Ken Kesey & Ken Babbs

Clumsy at first, fitting together
the years we have been apart,
and the ways.

But as the night
passed and the day came, the first
fine morning of April,

it came clear:
the world that has tried us
and showed us its joy

was our bond
when we said nothing
poem

My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge…
Hosea 4:6

We forget the land we stand on
and live from. We set ourselves
free in an economy founded
on nothing, on greed verified
by fantasy, on which we entirely
depend.  We depend on fire