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“Geese appear high over us,
Pass, and the sky closes. Abandon,
As in love or sleep, holds
Them to their way, clear
In the ancient faith: what we need
Is here. And we pray, not
For new earth or heaven, but to be
Quiet in heart, and in eye,
Clear. What we need is here.”
– “What We Need is Here” by Wendell Berry
Wendell Berry is one of four children born to John and Virginia Berry in Henry County, Kentucky. He was their firstborn in 1934.
Though his father was a lawyer, he also worked as a tobacco farmer to make ends meet through the Great Depression, which didn’t subside in the rural south as quickly as it did elsewhere. Because of his family’s hard work and achievements, he was able to attend University of Kentucky.
The basics aside, Wendell Berry is one of the most artful poets about the South’s natural wonders alive today. Those of you who read his poem last week will agree, I’m sure. He sees into the soul of Southern solace and encapsulates it beautifully. If you’re unfamiliar with his work, I recommend taking a look.
He isn’t just another author, though. Mr. Berry is a vocal defender and advocate for the South and its people. It began in 1968 when he delivered “A Statement Against the War in Vietnam” during the Kentucky Conference on the war and the draft:
“We seek to preserve peace by fighting a war, or to advance freedom by subsidizing dictatorships, or to ‘win the hearts and minds of the people’ by poisoning their crops and burning their villages and confining them in concentration camps; we seek to uphold the ‘truth’ of our cause with lies, or to answer conscientious dissent with threats and slurs and intimidations. . . . I have come to the realization that I can no longer imagine a war that I would believe to be either useful or necessary. I would be against any war.”
Throughout his life, he has been a vocal anti-war critic, supporter of pro-life causes and an advocate for farmers across the country. One particularly feisty bit of civil disobedience is when he locked himself inside the Kentucky governor’s office with 14 other protesters for an entire weekend in order to protest mountain top removal coal mining.
Wendell Berry made history in 2015 – he was the first living writer to be inducted into the Kentucky Writers Hall of Fame.
Mr. Berry bought a 117-acre homestead in Henry County in 1965. He grows corn, small grains and raises sheep with his wife of 64 years, Tanya Amyx.
I think Mr. Berry is one of those few authors who has his subject truly at heart. Not only does he express this in his literature, but through his daily life and advocacy, as well. He is a genuine devotee to the South, and he is absolutely worth treasuring.