“How To Be a Poet,” According to Wendell Berry

Poet, novelist, and environmentalist Wendell Berry was born in 1934. He lives on a farm in Port Royal, Kentucky near his birthplace, He is the author of over 40 books of poetry, fiction, and essays. His poetry celebrates the holiness of life and everyday miracles often taken for granted. “He is a master of many literary genres, but whether he is writing poetry, fiction, or essays, his message is essentially the same: humans must learn to live in harmony with the natural rhythms of the earth or perish.” Critics have written that Berry’s poems return us to the “clarity of purpose” and “simplicity” of William Wordsworth, Robert Frost, and John Clare. Passages of his poems convey the “sound of chopping in a murmurous forest, to lines of power, and memorable resonance. Many of Mr. Berry’s short poems are as fine as any written in our time.” *

Wendell Berry provides a gift to writers who are striving to find inspirations for continuing to improve in “How To Be a Poet.”

How To Be a Poet

(to remind myself)


Make a place to sit down.

Sit down. Be quiet.

You must depend upon

affection, reading, knowledge,

skill—more of each

than you have—inspiration,

work, growing older, patience,

for patience joins time

to eternity. Any readers

who like your poems,

doubt their judgment.


Breathe with unconditional breath

the unconditioned air.

Shun electric wire.

Communicate slowly. Live

a three-dimensioned life;

stay away from screens.

Stay away from anything

that obscures the place it is in.

There are no unsacred places;

there are only sacred places

and desecrated places.


Accept what comes from silence.

Make the best you can of it.

Of the little words that come

out of the silence, like prayers

prayed back to the one who prays,

make a poem that does not disturb

the silence from which it came.


*Bio summarized from information on www.poetryfoundation.org

For more information on Berry, visit http://www.wendellberrybooks.com


How to get your Berry Inspired Poem Published on Litchatte.com

If you are inspired by Berry’s poem, I will consider publishing it or them. Simply send the poem(s) and your name via the Comments section of this Blog, www.Litchatte.com or send it as an M.S. Word Attachment along with any optional visuals to my email: ellisonms2@vcu.edu. Thanks, Murray



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