By Wendell Berry
Originally published in Fall/Winter 1991 on page 62
Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more
of everything ready-made. Be afraid
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know.
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord.
Love the world. Work for nothing.
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it.
Denounce the government and embrace
the flag. Hope to live in that free
republic for which it stands.
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers.
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.
Say that the leaves are harvested
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion – put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come.
Expect the end of the world. Laugh.
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts.
So long as women do not go cheap
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep
of a woman near to giving birth?
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie down in the shade. Rest your head
in her lap. Swear allegiance
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos
can predict the motions of your mind,
lose it. Leave it as a sign
to mark the false trail, the way
you didn’t go. Be like the fox
who makes more tracks than necessary,
some in the wrong direction.
Filed under History, Poem, Study
The American Howard Nemerov’s wonderful short poem Because You Asked about the Line Between Prose and Poetry is a gem.
It’s a poem about a winter scene. A poem about rain imperceptibly turning into snow.
It’s also, as the title suggests, a poem about the act of poetic creation. Nemerov creates a single image into which is crushed an intensity of meaning.
A simple scene that many of us will have witnessed transformed into a flight of the imagination that few of us will have considered.
Last week, Simon Armitage was announced as the new poet laureate, replacing Carol Ann Duffy.
Whether we need a poet laureate, I’m not sure. That we need poetry, at this time, more than ever – of that I’m certain.
Read the complete article
Filed under News, Poem, Study
Debate over whether poem was written by multiple authors or one has raged for years
Beowulf, the epic poem of derring-do and monsters, was composed by a single author, research suggests, pouring cold water on the idea it was stitched together from two poems.
One of the most famous works in Old English, Beowulf tells of the eponymous hero who defeats the monster Grendel and his mother, thereby rescuing the Danes from a reign of terror, before returning to his homeland and later dying in a battle with a dragon.
But the poem has been the subject of a long-running debate. While some argued the work is the product of multiple poets, others – including the scholar and Lord of the Rings author JRR Tolkien – have said the evidence suggests it is a single poet’s work.
Read the complete article
Filed under History, Poem