cover image New Collected Poems

New Collected Poems

Wendell Berry. Counterpoint, $30 (410p) ISBN 978-1-58243-815-3

“What must a man do to be at home in the world?” Berry asks early in this big, thick new volume: he has found decades of international fame by providing, in poems, fiction, memoirs, and essays, his clear and consistent answers. Widely admired as a writer and as an environmental advocate since the 1960s, Berry continues to operate the Kentucky farm where his father and grandfather lived; he recommends, always, rural self-reliance, devoted to his own green place, to his wife and their household, and to his version of Christian belief. Irregular free verse connects Berry to William Carlos Williams, while ringing credos suggest William Stafford or Mary Oliver: “the seed doesn’t swell/ in its husk by reason, but loves/ itself, obeys light which is/ its own thought.” This volume makes Berry’s first Collected since 1987 and draws on volumes up through Leavings (2010); standout new efforts include a long elegy for Berry’s father and a set of haiku-sized poems. Benedictions and prayers coexist with manifestos and georgic, the ancient genre of poems about rural hard work. His antiwar sentiment dates from the Vietnam era and modulates into heartfelt attacks on modernity, on “dire machines that run/ by burning the world’s body and/ its breath.” Yet the dominant notes are appreciation and praise: for his wife, for his sense of wisdom, for “the pastures deep in clover and grass,/ enough and more than enough.” (Apr.)