Poetry Wednesday – 12/16/2009

16 Dec

I was introduced to Wendell Berry in a nature literature class I took in college.  I actually signed up for a class called “Literature and Ideas” not knowing that the professor was to choose the idea to be the theme of the course.  So when, on the first day of class, my favorite professor announced that the class would be focused on nature, place, and home, I was sort of annoyed and sort of intrigued.  Deciding to stick with it, simply because I despised the idea of hurting the professor’s feelings, I was amazed to find that I truly enjoyed the course.

We read poems, articles, non-fiction books, and novels.  I was introduced to the geniuses of Annie Dillard, Aldo Leopold, N. Scott Momaday, Gene Stratton Porter, and Wendell Berry.  We read his A Place on Earth which is now my  favorite book in my very favorite series. Now, I’m not an environmentalist or a tree hugger.  I use styrofoam cups, lazily “forget” to throw my cardboard into the recycle bin, and regularly forget to turn lights off when I leave home.  But Berry loves the land and his writing convicts and convinces my heart to consider it differently than I have before.  He despises most technology (still dictates to his wife as she records his thoughts on a typewriter), loves his tobacco farm, and genuinely respects women, but denounces mainstream feminism.   If you’re interested, I recommend….everything he’s ever written, but we can start with this poem given to us as a gift on the final day of class from our professor.

Manifesto:  The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

by Wendell Berry

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more
of everything ready-made. Be afraid
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know.

So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord.
Love the world. Work for nothing.
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it.
Denounce the government and embrace
the flag. Hope to live in that free
republic for which it stands.
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man
has not encountered he has not destroyed.

Ask the questions that have no answers.
Invest in the millenium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.
Say that the leaves are harvested
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.

Put your faith in the two inches of humus
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion – put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come.
Expect the end of the world. Laugh.
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts.
So long as women do not go cheap
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep
of a woman near to giving birth?

Go with your love to the fields.
Lie down in the shade. Rest your head
in her lap. Swear allegiance
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos
can predict the motions of your mind,
lose it. Leave it as a sign
to mark the false trail, the way
you didn’t go. Be like the fox
who makes more tracks than necessary,
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Please head over to enanoslivo to check out the other selections this week and add your own!

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3 Responses to “Poetry Wednesday – 12/16/2009”

  1. Kris December 16, 2009 at 10:28 pm #

    Oh, I love this poem! Wendell Berry has to be one of my favorite favorites. Have you read his short stories? “Fidelity” (I guess just the whole book!) is my favorite for his fiction.

  2. Ashley December 16, 2009 at 10:35 pm #

    I love Wendell Berry’s essays (I too met him through an unexpected college course), but I had never read any of his poetry. His ethos is particularly dear to me, and his glorious expression in verse takes it to a whole new level. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Jennifer December 16, 2009 at 10:57 pm #

    Kris,
    I love “Fidelity”! Honestly, there’s not a single thing I’ve read by him that I haven’t loved. I have a particular fascination by how he somehow casts the land as the main character in his fiction. he is absolutely brilliant. (Can you sense an author-crush?)

    Ashley,
    “Sex, Economy, Freedom, and Community” is my favorite collection of his essays. I think you would love, love, love “The Country of Marriage”. It’s one of his particularly romantic poems. Oh, the way he adores his wife!

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