cover image Entries


Wendell Berry. Pantheon Books, $20 (80pp) ISBN 978-0-679-42609-7

Berry's first collection since 1987 reads like a compilation taken from the years since, including occasional pieces, political satire and what seem like sketches. The influences are as diverse as Blake, Williams, and the later Yeats (``He served with mind and hand / What we were hoping for: / The small house on the land, / The shade tree by the door''). Berry's poems are united less by an aesthetic than an ethic, composed of respect for the earth and its people and a conviction that one must speak out against whatever forces stand in opposition: ``The spool of our engine-driven fate / unwinds, our history now outspeeding / thought, and the heart is a beatable tool.'' The poetry's general lack of metaphor leads to some drily rhetorical writing: ``It is the stewardship / of its own possibility, / the past remembering itself / in the presence of / the present, the power, learned / and handed down, to see / what is present.'' Yet Berry's observations (here, of a thunderstorm) can be acute: ``Out our window we glimpsed the world / birthwet and shining, as even / the sun at noon had never made it shine.'' The last section of poems about his father is most powerful. One appreciates that Berry's writing about aging is not designed to comfort, but only to tell the truth about the last stage of his father's life, ``when immortal love / In flesh, denying time, will look / At what is lost, and grief fulfill / The budget of desire. Sometimes, / At home, he longs to be at home.'' (May)