Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Review: Leavings by Wendell Berry

I’ve always been a little slow to use gift cards.  I feel like they are innately a special gift, and so the use of such a gift should also be a special occasion.  Jamie’s mom and dad gave me a Barnes & Noble gift card for Christmas, and it took me until May to make a purchase with it.  Regardless of the reason, I finally did make a purchase, and I’m incredibly glad I did.
I picked up the latest book of poetry from Wendell Berry.  It’s called Leavings.  It’s a mixture of musings from day to day life, and latest of Berry’s Sabbath poems—which are of course a series of Sunday reflections afforded to the writer on his day of rest.
Wendell Berry himself is an agrarian or ecological writer, and his writings center on the land of his sojourn in rural Kentucky.  He has worked his farm for most of his life, and understands a little better than most in the West our close tie to the good earth.
As I picked up Berry’s book of poetry in the Morgantown Barnes & Noble, I felt like I was reading letters and reflections from an old friend, someone who has seen all of the ill of our myriad technological advances and increased consumption habits and tried to resist in the simple yet profound protest of farming a small plot of land and subsisting off those offerings.
He writes about the greed of our age and how it is costing us our lives.  He writes of tragedies that come from a careless lifestyle of hurry and haste.  He writes and reminds me of my own need for simplicity as well as my own complicity in using and abusing the land and our resources.
Last week, I picked up some of my own old poetry and began to read it out loud.  Jamie listened and was unaware that it was mine.  She thought it was Wendell Berry’s writing.  It’s one of the greatest compliments I’ve ever received.
I don’t know Wendell Berry at all, but I’m tempted to write him a letter.  I’m tempted because I want to thank him for being a voice crying out against our own diversity of gluttony, and reminding us that we do have a choice.  There’s always a choice . . .
In light of the recent oil spill that is consuming our oceans and covering our wildlife with a reddish brown indictment against our greed, I highly recommend that more people give Berry’s latest installment a read.
If you do give it a try, please let me know what you think.  And also, do you think I should try to write him?
Regardless whether you read his or any other book of poetry or prose, I hope that you can make a small step of courage to use less today.  The irony is that you might feel somewhat useless yourself if you choose to do so—that’s why it takes courage.


Charles Michael said...

i think it would be great for you to write to wendell berry. he's great
( his writing, i mean...i don't know him or anything, but i figure he'd love it. ) you're so right in the things you said about living more simply, billy! love, mom

Kati said...

thanks for the post billy! I've always loved what I have read of Wendell Berry, and I think it's about time I pick up one of his collections :)

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chanchanchepon said...

@charles michael I appreciate the encouragement--maybe I'll write something this weekend. :) I hope I can see you guys soon!

@kati ur welcome, and I hope you are able to enjoy whatever you pick up.