Book Review: Collected Poems: 1957-1982 by Wendell Berry

Title: Collected Poems: 1957-1982
Author: Wendell Berry
Genre: Poetry
Publisher: North Point Press
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Source: Print copy from my personal library

This review was previously posted on my personal blog on April 12, 2007.

I chose Wendell Berry’s Collected Poems: 1957-1982 as my next poetry choice after finishing The Collected Works of Emily Dickinson. I was not crazy about the Dickinson. There were a few poems that really jumped out at me, but overall I found her poems morbid, depressing, and – sometimes – undecipherable. I know that’s heresy to Dickinson-lovers, but that’s my opinion.

Berry’s collection renewed my love of poetry. I enjoyed each and every page. Because the book includes poems in chronological order, you feel like you experience his life in order: his disillusionment with the Vietnam War and city life, his retreat to the country, his love-affair with his land, his marriage, his faith. I am very much looking forward to reading the two Berry books I checked out from the library yesterday: Sex, Economy, Freedom & Community: Eight Essays and That Distant Land: Collected Stories.

To Go By Singing

He comes along the street, singing,
a rag of a man, with his game foot and bum’s clothes.
He’s asking for nothing – his hands
aren’t even held out. His song
is the gift of singing, to him
and to all who will listen.

To hear him, you’d think the engines
would all stop, and the flower vendor would stand
with her hands full of flowers and not move.
You’d think somebody would have hired him
and provided him a clean quiet stage to sing on.

But there’s no special occasion or place
for his singing – that’s why it needs
to be strong. His song doesn’t impede the morning
or change it, except by freely adding itself.

~Wendell Berry

This entry was posted in poetry and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to Book Review: Collected Poems: 1957-1982 by Wendell Berry

  1. Kailana says:

    You should link this to the Poetry event I am co-hosting with Lu from Regular Ruminations. Today is the day and this post would fit in perfectly. More attention for Berry. 🙂

  2. unfinishedperson
    Twitter: unfnshdprsn

    I was introduced to the work of Wendell Berry by a professor in college, Dr. William Jolliff, who is a poet himself, and I love seeing his work again. Again, I’m reminded how much more Berry I need to read.

  3. Parrish says:

    Like this it has a subtle power &* reminds me a bit of Brian Patten.


    I put my hand into the lucky dip.
    It was full of acid.
    Undeterred, believing luck
    Something with which
    One has to grapple
    I dipped my hand
    Into a barrel of worms
    Pulled out an apple.

  4. Phaedosia says:

    I’ve had several people recommend Berry’s fiction to me, I didn’t realize he was a poet as well. I really need to get better acquainted with him. I like the poem you posted.

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies

      Phaedosia – His fiction and his poetry are brilliant – he’s a favorite of mine. 🙂

  5. Gavin says:

    Thank you for sharing Berry’s poetry. I enjoy his essays and want to read his novels.

  6. Pingback: January Roundup — Read More/Blog More Poetry Event | Regular Rumination

  7. Lu says:

    I have heard a lot about Wendell Berry’s poetry and non-fiction. Thank you for sharing this with us!

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies

      Lu – you’re welcome – I hope you get a chance to read some of his work. 🙂