For five decades Wendell Berry has been a poet of great clarity and purpose. He is an award-winning writer whose imagination is grounded by the pastures of his chosen place and the rooms and porches of his family's home. In Given his first collection of new poems in ten years now in paperback the work is as rich and varied as ever before. With his unmistakable voice as the constant, he dexterously maneuvers through a variety of forms and themes political cautions, love poems, a play in verse, and a long series of Sabbath Poems” that resulted from Berry's recent Sunday morning walks of meditation and observation.
Berry's work is one of devotion to family and community, to the earth and her creatures, to the memories of the past, and the hope of the future. His writing stands alongside the work of William Carlos Williams and Robert Frost as a rigorous American testament.
Thoughts about love, aging and war
By Patricia Kramer - October 6, 2005
Wendell Berry has written more than 40 books. His poetry books are shining gems. They are filled with short "simple" poems that will stop you in your tracks.
The section of this book entitled "Sabbaths" contains poems written on Sundays from 1998-2004. Until 2003, these poems are about love, long term love; aging,the joys and sorrows; and love and connection with the land. In 2003, Berry gets angry and his poems are filled with sorrow and horror about the war.
"When they cannot speak freely in defiance
of wealth self-elected to righteousness,
let the arts of pleasure and beauty cease.
Let every poet and singer of joy be dumb.
When those in power by owning all the words
have made them mean nothing, let silence
speak for us. When freedom's light goes out, let color
drain from all paintings into gray puddles
on the museum floor. When every ear awaits... read more
Berry Has Much Better Poems
By J. Alfier - April 18, 2006
Wendell Berry is one of my favorite poets; I highly recommend 'Entries', 'The Timbered Choir, and his various collected and selected poems to anyone interested in language that is alive and powerful in evocatively imagistic and spiritual ways. But 'Given' left me a bit cold. These poems would be better suited to Berry's excellent agrarian commentary work; but as poetry they failed the genre a bit, coming off like bland polemics in a language all too flat. The work is not without some merit, but I would certainly give Berry's other collections a much higher priority.
Gifts for Sabbath
By Gary Sprandel - November 1, 2005
Wonderful recent poems. Some of the poems seem ambiguous, which add to their power. In "The Rejected Husband" it doesn't matter if he is talking about a divorce or a death, it still has the pain of rejection. " He writes a Poem "How to be a poet" to remind him not to "disturb the silence from which it came".
The Sabbath poems from 1998-2004 have a sermon quality and other times a elegy quality. There is his own grappling with the loss of friends "nothing taken, that was not first a gift." But there is also the hope in nature "and the little blossoms make a new softness in the light", and the relationship of with grief is "In Heaven the starry saints will wipe away / The tears forever from our eyes, but they / Must no erase the memory of our grief. In bliss, eve, there can be no relief".
It Is up to the reader to decide If Berry achieve his goal "To make my art compatible / with the songs of the local birds."
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