“Everything we’ve said here,” writes Barbara Kingsolver of her family’s eco-memoir Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, “Wendell said first, in a quiet voice that makes the mountains tremble.”
That Mr. Berry said things first—or has said the same things consistently for so long—is evidenced in generations of individuals who claim him as a friend, tutor, and inspiration. Mark Bittman, writing for The New York Times, called Berry an American hero, the soul of the real food movement. Says Bittman, “I’d never heard of him the first time I read his work ... but his words have changed my life.”
Mr. Berry would likely deflect such praise with the same modesty and wit that empower his “quiet” voice. If mountains tremble, perhaps it’s in deference to his skill as “one of English’s finest stylists.” Or perhaps it’s with gratitude for Berry’s protests against surface mining and for his efforts to resettle us in a continuous harmony with nature.
Berry’s readers already know his dust-jacket biography: he returned from Stanford and Europe and New York to his home place, received fellowships and awards—including the National Humanities Medal—for his many essays, novels, and poems and, as Wallace Stegner wrote, “wouldn’t be as good a man ... if [he] were not a member of Tanya, and she of [him].”
However, it’s the integrity and soul of his writings, the lasting impression they invariably leave, and the idea of a hillside farm in Kentucky—more than Mr. Berry’s impressive vita—that motivate this musical celebration.
[Excerpted from album liner notes.]
Composer Andrew Maxfield produced Celebrating Wendell Berry in Music with Mr. Berry's blessing and involvement. You can hear new recordings of Mr. Berry reading his poetry on the album. To learn more about Mr. Berry and his work, please visit his publisher's website or The Berry Center.