Poetry Monday: The Peace of Wild Things by Wendell Berry

Today’s selection comes from Wendell Berry; poet, novelist, essayist, man of letters, and gentleman farmer. Some might even say a prophet. Born in 1934 in Kentucky, he still continues to work the same land his family has worked for centuries.

I love the simplicity of Wendell Berry’s poetry. It reminds me of my own (no, I’m not suggesting I have a fraction of his talent). He brings me to tears, sometimes for his melancholy writings and others for how naturally (and optimistically) he describes of the beauty around him. I read in his book, The Timbered Choir: The Sabbath Poems 1979-1997 that Berry would walk around his Kentucky home alone on the Sabbath to meditate and write. I find that much of my own writing and reflection happens not when I’m away in nature, but when I find nature in the midst of my urban [home]surroundings.

This poem describes the sadness I often experience when I contemplate the the state of our world, and the world in which we are leaving our beautiful children and grandchildren. And the peace I find in the small and wild things–the papery petals of fleeting summer poppies, the carpenter mason bee that makes a home in the soil beneath my purple coneflower, the steady drip of water from a redwood tree’s needles to the forest floor–where I am able to center myself and remember all of the goodness this world has to offer. It is in the simplicity and the complexity of nature that I am invigorated and inspired to press forward, as we LDS like to say.

spider in the midst of giants

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.


8 responses to “Poetry Monday: The Peace of Wild Things by Wendell Berry

  1. Kim August 1, 2011 at 11:22 am

    Probably my all-time favorite poem. I love poetry Monday. Thanks!!

  2. Paul R. August 1, 2011 at 2:44 pm

    I used to give a copy of his short stories “Fidelity” to every new bishop I knew. I probably should reread it myself and restart the tradition.

  3. EmmaNadine August 1, 2011 at 7:19 pm

    I absolutely love Wendell Berry. I recommend him to anyone who will stand still long enough for me to talk to.

  4. mfranti August 1, 2011 at 7:26 pm

    Thank you all for your comments.

  5. bettyjo August 2, 2011 at 3:07 pm

    “I come into the peace of wild things
    who do not tax their lives with forethought
    of grief.”

    what a grand presentation of that perfect message

  6. reader Rachel August 7, 2011 at 9:51 pm

    I love Wendell Berry’s work: poetry, novels, and essays. Thank you for sharing some of it here. BTW, Clint referenced Berry in his talk on spinning and focal practices.

  7. mfranti August 7, 2011 at 9:54 pm


    /sigh. I wanted to hear Clint’s talk so bad because I want to learn to spin. Plus, I’m sure it would have been a great presentation.

    And you…

    you kicked ass every time you opened your mouth. Great stuff.

  8. nat kelly August 10, 2011 at 7:33 pm

    This poem is simply beautiful. Love, love, love it.

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