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New Collected Poems Hardcover – March 27, 2012
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*Starred Review* So eloquent and substantial are Berry’s fiction and essays that his poetry can seem ancillary. Read in chronology and near-completely in this volume, however, his verse shines out as the radiant heart of his prophetic art. He has been the foremost American poet of place, which for him means the Kentucky farming community in which he has lived and worked as farmer-writer in the tradition of Hesiod and Virgil, demonstrating the propriety and the virtue of living with the land and its creatures and arguing vehemently and cogently for the integrity of agriculture as the basis of human thriving. Berry’s poems initially show him discovering his understanding of the world and human livelihood and then how that understanding works out in the lives of his family and community members; that is, in farming as a calling, a tradition, and a passion. Yes, nature is often his subject, but death is his most frequent concern, which he probes and ponders until there is nothing fearsome left in it. As his poetic career progresses, cogitation decreases, storytelling increases, and, most lately, epigram burgeons with stinging and amusing effectiveness. Moreover, reading his poems is like drinking fresh springwater. --Ray Olson
Praise for Collected Poems:
[Berry’s poems] shine with a gentle wisdom of a craftsman who has thought deeply about the paradoxical strangeness and wonder of life.”The Christian Science Monitor
Wendell Berry is one of those rare individuals who speaks to us always of responsibility, of the individual cultivation of an active and aware participation in the arts of life, be they those of composing a poem, preparing a hill for planting, raising a family, working for the good of oneself and one’s neighbors, loving.”The Bloomsbury Review
Praise for Entries:
If you’re wondering where all the sincerity has gone in contemporary poetry, you may rest assured that Wendell Berry has it.”Bookpress
Disarming in its apparent simplicity and powerful in its lack of guile.”San Marcos Daily Record
Praise for Given:
For those who believe that life and the world are gifts, this is an invaluable book.”Booklist
Praise for Leavings:
[Berry’s] sage mind and poetic skills combine to skewer political arrogance, savage commercial folly, muse on growing old and lament a good dog’s death. Mindful of time and earth, of joy and love, Berry calls us to the hard work of a hope and peace and gratitude so incarnate that they rest on the ground underfoot.’”Christian Century
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That accessibility and his impatience with artifice in poetry or politics may suggest why some in the academic world ignore or disparage his writing.
The later collections are not as strong as those from 1994 and before. His elegies, especially the one for his grandfather, are haunting and universal. I highly recommend living with this collection for a while.