Tag Archives: Wendell Berry




Janisse Ray

I’m so excited. Janisse will be at the Festival of Faith and Writing in Grand Rapids next week. Most likely I will be able to hear her speak. I can’t wait. I look forward to picking up a copy of her memoir, “Ecology of A Cracker Childhood.”

Yes, I’ve written about this author before. I’m a big fan. I read her poems in “A House of Branches.” Her lyric poetry is beautiful and reading her poems always brightens my day.

I’ll share a line from her poem “Waiting In the Dark” because Jerry would have loved this. “Some nights when news is bad in the world/ we go out and look at the sky, which is dark even before the work day ends/save for pinpoints of stars and sometimes/ an ivory disk sailing across it/over the shoulder of *Wantastiquet.

Much of Ms. Ray’s more recent writing has been non-fiction: “The Seed Underground: A Growing Revolution to Save Food.”, “Drifting into Darian: A Personal and Natural History of the Altamaha River” (in Georgia), and a memoir, “Ecology of a Cracker Childhood”. All of her writing is poetic. Her voice, the ebb and flow of her sentences, all is music to the ear.

If anyone would like to borrow “The Seed Underground” or “Drifting into Darian”, I would be happy to send to you. I want everyone who is interested to know her writing. I first became interested in her writing when I read some of her essays about life and natural history in North Florida.

Perhaps you’ll hear more about her after I attend the conference.

*Wantastiquet= a mountain in New Hampshire or Vermont


Mary Oliver

I find Mary Oliver’s books the easiest poetry to buy and to read. In the last poetry book giveaway, someone won one. I still have three left, but do not yet own her newest volume, which I believe is titled “Felicity”, released last year.

She’s a special poet. She keeps writing. We keep buying.

I purchased her slim volume “A Thousand Mornings” in 2013 at Prairie Lights in Iowa City. And I wrote a notation on the front flyleaf: I want to read more poems. Flipping through the pages, I definitely want/need to read more.

In 2010 I purchased “Evidence.” Mary Oliver lives in Provincetown, MA and many of the poems in this volume seem to tell of the natural gifts she experiences in that area. This summer I hope to travel there and see some of the things Mary Oliver sees.

If I could only pay attention in the profound manner in which she engages! She observes quietly and with great appreciation, so great it allows the reader to see as she does. She writes, “Truly, we live with mysteries too marvelous to be understood.”

And the book with the warm red jacket, “The Truro Bear and Other Adventures.” I do not know how these writings came to be collected in this volume, which includes new and classic poems and several essays. I have read little here though I could not wait to purchase it. I’m moving it to the top of the stack and after I have read some of these sustaining works, I will strive to learn how they came to be collected in one place.


Wendell Berry

Wendell Berry writes fiction, poetry and essays. I believe his latest book of poetry is “This Day: Collected and New Sabbath Poems.” Any and all of his writings offer something of interest.

I have an old volume of his collected Poems 1957 to 1982. Here I often find sustaining comfort. I enjoy reading his early poems as much as later ones.

His Sabbath poems are not about the Sabbath, but written as he looks out a window on quiet Sunday mornings and contemplates the view and what comes to mind. I think I gave my copy of Sabbath Poems to a blog reader in a previous poetry giveaway.

I close out this post with a quote from one of my favorite of his poems from the book “Leavings.” So often he writes of gratitude, how strongly we feel it, sometimes how we forget. “We forget the land we stand on and live from.”

But then, shifting through the pages, I see a poem I love even more. Just a few lines from this untitled poem: “Mowing the hillside pasture–where the flowers of Queen Anne’s lace /float above the grass, the milkweeds/flare and bee balm, cut, spices/the air…..”



“I tremble with gratitude
for my children and their children…”

This opening from a Wendell Berry poem brought to mind the heart full of thankfulness I felt at our recent family reunion. Though we don’t often think of summer as the time to read poetry, I do believe anytime is a time for poetry. It lifts the heart and soul.

So, now in the center of summer, readeatlive.com/blog is giving away five books of poetry. All have been used by this poetry reader and there are occasional notations. Still, they are gifts to be enjoyed. You could be one of the lucky winners.

Enter by commenting on this post. Click on the word “Replies” at the top of the post under the title. Finish this sentence: I would like to win a book of poetry because…..
Or say anything you would like to say. Entries will close at midnight on Friday, June 10 and poetry volumes for the winners will be mailed early the next week.

Among the poets whose work you could win are Mary Oliver, Wendell Berry and Pulitzer winner Louise Gluck, as well as others.

From Mary Oliver – “Take your busy heart to the art museum and the chamber of commerce but take it also to the forest.” That’s what a poem can do for you.

Good luck. Thanks for entering the contest.

How’s the Reading Going?

place in time small


Sometimes I get bogged down with my reading. I wonder if this happens to anybody else? I start a book with enthusiasm and then somewhere in the middle it becomes much less interesting. That is happening to me this week. Though Grant and Sherman at Vicksburg are muddling around some in the middle of The Man Who Saved the Union, they are more interesting than the endless imagined dialogue of Scott and Zelda, mostly fighting. I won’t give up on Grant, but I am considering giving up on Scott and Zelda as they are imagined in Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald.

A writer I never tire of is Wendell Berry. I probably own more books by Wendell Berry than any other author and I guess there’s good reason for that, since I claim to never tire of him. He writes essays, poems, short stories, and novels. Janisse Ray dedicated her book The Seed Underground to him. I don’t know the reason, but I do know that he has championed sustainable agriculture for decades and his writing, in every genre, is inspiring in so many ways.

Yesterday I was reading one of his short stories. In this story a character named Burley Coulter is wondering around in the hills of Northern Kentucky at night hunting with his dogs. Burley is an ordinary person, not especially known for intellect or action. And, I know nothing about hunting, I have never tramped the hills of Kentucky at night or in the daytime. I am not very interested in dogs, and certainly not hunting dogs. And yet, my interest in the story never waned. Go figure, or go read Wendell Berry.

If you have not read anything by Wendell Berry, I urge you to try a poem, an essay, a short story or a novel. Of his novels I recommend Hannah Coulter. More about Wendell Berry another time.

Those of us who write are often ask what author we would most like to meet. I’d like a round table discussion with Wendell Berry, Wallace Stegner, who I believe was Berry’s teacher at Stanford, and Louise Erdrich. Janisse Ray would like to be there too, I’ll bet.

I’ll hope my reading enthusiasm picks up. Perhaps I have too many irons in the fire, too many books on the read, I mean. One more day with Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald and then I’ll make a decision. I loved Jessica Mitford’s biography of Zelda so much, I’m surprised I’m not doing better with Z. Jessica Mitford also wrote movingly about Edna St. Vincent Millay.

Enough rambling. Back to the books.