Foster, Edward. Berrigan, Bronk, and the American Real. New

York: Spuyten Duyvil, 1999. Waldman, Anne, ed. Nice to See You: Homage to Ted Berrigan.

Minneapolis, Minn.: Coffee House, 1991.

Edward Foster

BERRY, WENDELL (1934- ) The poetry of Wendell Berry offers a persistent and deliberate response to the environmental and moral crises of 20th-century America. Focused on a sense of place defined by community, work, and respect for the land, Berry relies on pastoral and elegiac poetic forms while avoiding the stylistic experimentation of many of his postmodern literary peers. His themes echo such poets as Walt Whitman, Robert frost, and Gary snyder. As a poet, essayist, and novelist, Berry is an active spokesman for the virtues of sustainable farming and bioregionalism, or commitment to place, as a means of living a sincere and ethical life.

Berry grew up in Kentucky and received undergraduate and graduate degrees at the University of Kentucky in 1956 and 1957. After completing a Wallace Stegner Fellowship at Stanford in 1959 and a Guggenheim Fellowship in Italy in 1962, Berry taught briefly in New York before returning to the University of Kentucky in 1964. A year later he bought a 12-acre farm on the Kentucky River, in the same county in which he was born. After a dozen volumes of poetry and more than 20 other books, Berry still inhabits his native ground, a decision that Wallace Stegner has called "as radical as Thoreau's retreat to Walden, and much more permanent" (51). Berry's work has earned him, among other awards, the American Academy of Arts and Let ters Jean Stein Award (1987) and a Lannan Foundation Award for nonfiction (1989).

Berry's poetry is a reflection of his decision to return to the rural from the urban. In simple but moving verses, he explores daily and seasonal cycles of life and death, while raising crops, mourning the loss of loved ones, and praising the value of nature. Fidelity is his ideal, and Berry is faithfully "married" not only to his wife but also to his land, his family, and his community. Staying home is Berry's response to the crises of his time, including Vietnam and the cold war in his earlier poems. In "Stay Home" (1980), the fields and woods surrounding his dwelling offer labor "longer than a man's life"; the poem deliberately echoes Frost's "The Pasture." Berry rewrites Frost's refrain, "I sha'n't be gone long.—You come too," with his own: "Don't come with me. / You stay home too." With an ecologist's commitment to place, he hopes that others will stay home as well and protect their own local environments.

Berry's voice shifts throughout his work, from mad farmer to compassionate husbandman to Luddite (with a vehement critique of technology and industrialization), but his implication, as taken from his 1980 poem "Below," is always clear: "What I stand for / is what I stand on."

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