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Wendell Berry Reminds Us How To Be A Poet

A friend of mine knowing that I’ve been suffering from writer’s block for the past several months sent this to me, a poem by one of my favorite authors about the writing of poetry.  I’ll add one thought but otherwise let the work speak for itself.  I remember several years ago listening to acclaimed poet Li-Young Lee read some of his poetry and thinking at the time that his words created silence in me.  In regards to the last lines of Mr. Berry’s poem here, I’ve often thought that the best books, poems, and songs – though filled with sounds and words – create a quiet place in us and give us an opportunity to actually listen to silence.  Now, from Mr. Berry:

“How To Be a Poet” by Wendell Berry

(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.


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