Wendell Berry does not travel for lectures or speaking engagements so often as he used to, but yesterday afternoon at Northern Kentucky University he acknowledged that it’s hard to turn down a request “when it comes from a neighbor.” One of Berry’s many endearing qualities is that he is committed to a place, a plot of land in Henry County, Kentucky, that his family has farmed for the past five generations. When he talks about community, his credentials are impeccable.
He is also, as it turns out, a rather wry, self-deprecating fellow. After he read his poem “Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front,” he was greeted with enthusiastic applause from the crowd, to which he responded, “I think that is a concurrence in this particular variety of craziness.”
No matter what you think of poetry or Wendell Berry or farmers or craziness, you would do yourself a favor by reading that very poem now. Go ahead, click on the link. It could turn out to be the best spent two minutes of your day.
(If you too resonate with this particular variety of craziness, you have The Mad Farmer Poems to look forward to this November.)
Chris Cooke was the person who introduced Ben to Wendell Berry, and he was the true inspiration behind the Wendell Berry party we co-hosted in Pittsburgh. We asked guests to arrive, if at all possible, by walking or biking or using some form of public transportation. We did not use electricity but had enough candles lit so that when it became dark someone could still give a reading on the hour every hour of his or her favorite Wendell Berry poem or essay. We did not pass the ultimate test of growing and cooking the food we ate (not having a garden made that difficult), but in that small sin we beg forgiveness.
Chris Cooke is also the newest addition to our blogroll, as he documents his four month trek across the globe. His first entry from London demonstrates his deft ability to weave The Clash, J.R.R. Tolkien and knives-and-chainsaw juggling street performers into a single post. You can follow his travels (which have just begun) here.