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Thursday, February 13, 2020

"How to Be a Poet" by Wendell Berry

 

How to Be a Poet

(to remind myself)

 

Make a place to sit down.   
Sit down. Be quiet.   
You must depend upon   
affection, reading, knowledge,   
skill—more of each   
than you have—inspiration,   
work, growing older, patience,   
for patience joins time   
to eternity. Any readers   
who like your poems,   
doubt their judgment.
 
Breathe with unconditional breath   
the unconditioned air.   
Shun electric wire.   
Communicate slowly. Live   
a three-dimensioned life;   
stay away from screens.   
Stay away from anything   
that obscures the place it is in.   
There are no unsacred places;   
there are only sacred places   
and desecrated places.   

Accept what comes from silence.   
Make the best you can of it.   
Of the little words that come   
out of the silence, like prayers   
prayed back to the one who prays,   
make a poem that does not disturb   
the silence from which it came.

 

Poet, novelist, and environmentalist, Wendell Berry lives in Port Royal, Kentucky near his birthplace, where he has maintained a farm for over 40 years. Mistrustful of technology, he holds deep reverence for the land and is a staunch defender of agrarian values. His poetry celebrates the holiness of life and everyday miracles often taken for granted. In 2016, Berry was awarded the Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award by the National Books Critics Circle. In 2010, Barack Obama awarded him with the National Humanities Medal. Berry’s other honors include the T.S. Eliot Prize, the Aiken Taylor Award for poetry, the John Hay Award of the Orion Society, and the Richard C. Holbrooke Distinguished Achievement Award of the Dayton Literary Peace Prize. Berry’s poetry collections include This Day: Collected & New Sabbath Poems (2014), Given (2005), A Timbered Choir: The Sabbath Poems 1979-1997, Entries: Poems (1994), Traveling at Home (1989), The Selected Poems of Wendell Berry (1988), Collected Poems 1957-1982 (1985), Clearing (1977), There Is Singing Around Me (1976), and The Broken Ground (1964).   
Credits: Poetry Foundation

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