Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Mr. Wendell Berry Has Friends in Michigan

Mr. Wendell Berry Has Friends in Michigan

A few of the River Junction Poets met with a few non-River Junction Poets in August of 2006 to read a few of Mr. Berry's poems, to learn a thing or two about Mr. Berry and to see what connections we could make between ourselves and the poet and the poetry. We had nine people altogether. As usual, we met at the Barnes & Noble bookstore in Saginaw, Michigan at 7 p.m. We met on the occasion of Mr. Berry's birthday - ostensibly. His birthday is on the 5th, and we met instead on the 7th. Our group has an unwritten rule: we never meet on a Friday, Saturday or Sunday. The 5th this year was a Saturday, so we decided to move our event to the following Monday.

While we were there, we bought and signed a birthday card for Mr. Berry. I put it in the mail the next day. We do this now for all the poets we meet for, provided the poet is still alive. Mr. Berry took a few moments from his day to write a note to my River Junction Poets friends and me. We are so enthused! His note is dated August 14th, and I received it on the 23rd. It is short and to the point:

Dear Mr. Christ: I am grateful to you and your friends for your kindness, and I send my good wishes to you all. Sincerely, (signed) Wendell Berry

I was particularly enthused for this event and remain grateful for it because I was not aware of Mr. Berry's writing until Karen Choate, one of the River Junction Poets, recommended him to us. Reading his poems with a group of people and hearing the remarks others made about him, his essays, novel and poetry gave me a lot to think about in just an hour and a half. I learned from others in the group about the revolution Berry has been interested in for so many years.
The night of the event, while we were enjoying Berry's poetry, an artist among us asked whether Berry mentions in any of his poems the struggles of the small farmer. I thought the question was a particluarly good one, and we decided that Berry has chosen to exclude from his poetry that particular strain of thought. Mr. Berry has written about the struggles of the family farm in several essays over a decades-long span. I enjoyed it when Karen pointed out and read some of Mr. Berry's better-known poems. Any time he wants to visit Saginaw, I'm sure Mr. Berry will receive a warm welcome from the River Junction Poets.

"It is our goal to appreciate and improve our talents, to share our own work and to communicate the joys of poetry with others. Everyone's poetry is valued." River Junction Poets Mission Statement

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