Wendell Berry on Writing Poems and a Definition of Regionalism

These Wendell Berry quotes are lifted from one of my workbooks (1980-81). He is one of the writers I was paying attention to at the time. I remain interested in his overall stance as a writer who put his stake down in a place, Kentucky for him, but has not been contained or limited in any way by that decision. The first book of his that I read was The Unsettling of America: Culture and Agriculture (1977) in which he writes about social and environmental damage that must be repaired if people in our nation are to find happiness when they pursue it. Berry is conservative in the root sense of the word, a way of thinking and seeing which at times has prompted him to ethical and political action in public. I've always preferred his prose to his poetry, however, it may be time to revisit the poems after a long time away from them.

"A poet could not write a poem in order to earn a place in literary history. His place in literary history is another subject, and such a distraction. He writes because he has a poem to write, he knows how, the work pleases him, and he has forgotten all else."

"The regionalism I adhere to could be defined simply as local life aware of itself. It would tend to substitute for the myths and stereotypes of a region a particular knowledge of the life of the place one lives in and intends to continue to live in. It pertains to living as much as to writing, and it pertains to living before it pertains to writing. The motive of such regionalism is the awareness that local life is intricately dependent, for its quality but also for it continuance, upon local knowledge."---from "The Regional Motive" in A Continuous Harmony (HBJ, 1972)