Evening Poetry, May 16

May Song

by Wendell Berry

For whatever is let go

there’s a taker.

The living discovers itself

where no preparation

was made for it,

where its only privilege

is to live if it can.

The window flies from the dark

of the subway mouth

into the sunlight

stained with the green

of the spring weeds

that crowd the improbable

black earth

of the embankment,

their stout leaves

like the tongues and bodies

of a herd, feeding

on the new heat,

drinking in the seepage

of the stones:

the freehold of life,

triumphant

even in the waste

of those who possess it.

But it is itself the possessor,

we know at last,

seeing it send out weeds

to take back

whatever is left:

Proprietor, pasturing foliage

on the rubble,

making use

of the useless–a beauty

we have less than not

deserved.

This poem can be found in New Collected Poems by Wendell Berry.

Evening Poetry, May 5

How to Be a Poet

by Wendell Berry


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.

You can find this poem at the Poetry Foundation and in the collection Given: Poems.