Monday, February 22, 2010

Wendell Berry: New poems

Two of my favourite poems from Wendell Berry's new book of poetry Leavings are below.

Berry's work display a reverence for life and moral and intellectual clarity. The poems are profound reflections on life, death, family and our connectedness to history and the environment. There are also provocative political poems in this collection. Berry is a passionate critic of contemporary capitalism and a defender of the environment and local economies.


I tremble with gratitude
for my children and their children
who take pleasure in one another.

At our dinners together, the dead
enter and pass among us
in loving love and in memory

And so the young are taught


If we have become a people incapable
of thought, then the brute- thought
of mere power and greed
will think for us

If we have become incapable
of denying ourselves anything,
then all we have
will be taken from us.

If we have no compassion,
we will suffer alone, we will suffer
alone the destruction of ourselves.

These are merely the laws of this world
as known to Shakespeare, as known to Milton:

When we cease from human thought
a low and effective cunning
stirs in the most inhuman minds.

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