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A Timbered Choir: The Sabbath Poems 1979-1997 Paperback – April 1, 1999


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A Timbered Choir: The Sabbath Poems 1979-1997 + The Selected Poems of Wendell Berry + What Are People For?: Essays
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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

The public performance of poetry, writes Wendell Berry in the preface to A Timbered Choir, has become vogue in the English-speaking world. Yet, he counters, his poems are created in silence and solitude, which may be the best way to read these thoughtful lyrics about country life, verses populated by trees, horses, rivers, and stars. This volume gathers nearly 20 years' worth of Berry's Sabbath poems, written after Sunday morning walks across the fields and bottomlands of northern Kentucky. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Winner of the T.S. Eliot Award, Berry (A World Lost, LJ 10/15/96) spends Sunday mornings in walking meditation in the forests and fields around his Port Royal, KY, farm. During these walks he writes, and he has brought many of these poems together in the present volume. Berry has long been an articulate and passionate defender of the environment, and his "Sabbath poems," spanning 20 years, bring the reader close to the earth, the fields and flowers, richness of the soil, and diversity of the seasons: "Too late for frost, too early for flies,/ the air carries only birdsong, the long/ breath of wind in leaves." The poet has a marvelous ear for interior rhyme: "Horse and cow,/ plow and hoe, grass to graze/ and hay to mow have brought me/ here, and taught me where I am." These poems are not uniformly pastoral; Berry reflects, too, on war, technology, and the economy in these pages, but always with a heartfelt devotion first and foremost for the earth. A contemplative treasure; highly recommended.?Judy Clarence, California State Univ. Lib., Hayward
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Counterpoint; 1 edition (April 1, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1582430063
  • ISBN-13: 978-1582430065
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 5 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #140,627 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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41 of 43 people found the following review helpful By William Krischke VINE VOICE on June 4, 2000
Format: Paperback
This book is a rarity of rarities -- quality poetry from a Christian perspective that any and all can enjoy. Though Berry's faith is evident, it is far from oppressive, and simply adds to the peace and quiet of the poems.
Peace and quiet describe them best. Called "Sabbath Poems", they are often the result of a restful walk through the woods, a time of reflection and enjoyment of "the given world". Themes through the book are love of nature (and God through nature), a growing disgust with the modern world, the presence and comfort of death and life, and his love for his wife.
Metrically, Berry's poetry is marked by the strength of his individual lines. Sometimes he rhymes; almost always there is an internal, even organic rhythm.
As this book spans 1979 -- 1997, it is also interesting to trace the progression of his poetry. His lines grow stronger as his poems grow simpler. And he is less afraid to venture out a bit -- while most of his poems are 15-20 lines unrhymed with internal rhythm, he tries on rhyming patterns, writes one or two line works, and even writes a 13 page praise of the pastoral life.
215 pages long is a good deal longer than most books of poetry that aren't "collections". My favorite poems are towards the end, if you're only going to read a few, read the ones from 1992 on.
Poems to quite your soul and spirit. Highly recommended.
A sample poem:
I go among the trees and sit still.
All my stirring becomes quiet
around me like circles on water.
My tasks lie in their places where I left them, asleep like cattle.
Then what is afraid of me comes
and lives a while in my sight.
What it fears in me leaves me,
and the fear of me leaves it.
It sings, and I hear its song.
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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Wesley L. Janssen VINE VOICE on March 1, 2004
Format: Paperback
Of himself, Wendell Berry says, "I am an amateur poet, working for the love of the work." My own reading tends not to poetry but to philosophy, physics, exegesis, and related works in which language serves quite differently. And yet, whether reading Aristotle or Wendell Berry, it is inescapable that words are ultimately only allegories for much larger ideas. Perhaps in poetry this fact is embraced and romanced while in philosophic and scientific work it is ever a 'problem' to be rather embroiled in. Well, I am an amateur critic, but if the poetry in this volume is the work of an "amateur poet" I say why bother with "professional" poetry? If in fact there is such a thing, what more could it offer?
Berry is a farmer, a tender of fields and flocks and fences. Of course he is also a highly regarded poet; a man of soil and art and meditation. In this collection his recurring themes include: The importance of honest labor and the importance of rest and contemplation, "the standing Sabbath of the woods" as he calls it; the nature and passing of time, the connectedness of ourselves to our histories and of matter to spirit. Recurring metaphors of light falling into darkness and light arising from darkness, of life fading into death and of life arising from death, have both material and spiritual meanings. . .
"His passing now has brought him up
Into a place not reached by road,
Beyond all history that he knows,
Where trees like great saints stand in time,
Eternal in their patience. Loss
Has rectified the songs that come
Into this columned room, and he
Only in silence, nothing in hand,
Comes here. A generosity
Is here by which the fallen stand." (1984, p65)
The author invites the reader to consider the verses here a few at a time, in moments of quiet and solitude, of "Sabbath rest," in the same manner in which the verses were created.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Book Addict VINE VOICE on January 27, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I can't recall the number of copies of this book that I have purchased. My own autographed copy remains a constant on my bedside table, doggeared, starred, and underlined. It is filled with the lovely, quiet poems of Wendell Berry, a true genius in the crafting of words. These poems, compiled over many years of Sunday walks (thus the Sabbath Poems), harken to the quieter side of life. The inevitable changing of seasons, places, and people. We all need a little space for thinking. Berry reminds us of who we are and why we're here. In a quiet way. Buy this book for yourself. Then order more copies for your friends.
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Format: Paperback
The word love is overused, but what do we have left trying to describe the deep affection I have for Wendell Berry's poems? Actually, I feel a bit twitterpated with every single thing I've ever read of Mr. Berry's: the essays I stumble on across the internet, his poetry, his fiction. Ironically, I almost never got to know the work of Wendell Berry. Several years ago, before I'd been properly introduced to his work, a friend who'd actually written her Ph.D. dissertation on the work of Wendell Berry described him to me as a contrarian. As it turned out that friendship took on a contrarian flavour all the way around and, sadly, that scared me away from Wendell Berry as guilty-by-association. Thankfully, I overcame all those negative presumptions and started reading. As grace often does, the more I became acquainted with Berry's writing, the more I forgave and enjoyed the memories of that ill-fated friendship as well.

From what I can understand, this collection of poems were written as a response to his practice of Sunday morning walking meditations over a period of two decades. In order to truly hear Mr. Berry in his poetry and his prayer, I read --out loud-- each poem as a chapter of a book. So for one evening, I read, for example, the six poems included from the 1990 collection. I do not know why the number of poems included from each year vary. For example, 1979 is made up of twelve poems and 1986 only one. Was Mr. Berry more prolific or more skilled in one particular year over another?
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