October 20, 2013
Here’s Wendell Berry on “How to Be a Poet (to Remind Myself”:
Make a place to sit down.Sit down. Be quiet.You must depend uponaffection, reading, knowledge,skill—more of eachthan you have—inspiration,work, growing older, patience,for patience joins timeto eternity. Any readerswho like your poems,doubt their judgment.
At the risk of running into some copyright issues, I’m going to keep quoting, because it’s really the next few lines that make a connection to Wendell Berry’s status as a hero for the Thornapple blog.
Breathe with unconditional breaththe unconditioned air.Shun electric wire.Communicate slowly. Livea three-dimensioned life;stay away from screens.Stay away from anythingthat obscures the place it is in.
Now chances are pretty good that if you are reading the Thornapple blog right now (and how could it NOT be the case that you are reading the Thornapple blog right now—that’s what you should ask yourself), then it’s also pretty darn likely that you are ignoring the poet’s advice to “stay away from screens.” It’s advice that your Thornapple blogger ignores pretty routinely. I do most of my writing on screens. As a teacher and public speaker I spend a lot of time in front of screens working on presentations, too. (Well, maybe we can call that writing, but it sure ain’t poetry.) And then I find myself sitting in front of a screen amusing myself with some inane game like “Fruit Ninja”. Contrary to any free association you might be making, there’s really no connection between food ethics and “Fruit Ninja.”
In deference to copyright, I’ve not given you the totality of this wonderful little poem from Wendell Berry, so I’ll provide a link to the Poetry Magazine website where I found it right here. Go finish reading it on your own. Then maybe think about absenting yourself from screens for awhile. Go out in the garden and see if there are any tomatoes worth picking. It’s been too cold for them to ripen up, but we have yet to have a hard freeze here in Central Michigan (though that may not last long given the weather report), so there might still be a green one out there that will ripen up if you put in a paper bag with a banana. Or do something else 3 dimensional, like cooking chili. That’s actually one of the most important things about food ethics, you know. At least for now, food is still 3-D.
Paul B. Thompson is the W.K. Kellogg Professor of Agricultural, Food and Community Ethics at Michigan State University