the presence of still water...

from my anthology of must read (a)merican poems

Wendell Berry

The Peace of Wild Things

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.


“The Peace of Wild Things” is, at least in part, a poem about wholeness. If one is still enough – in that pause, all things make sense. Although momentary, the scene is absolute in its effect. The moment isn’t about submission to or domination of – but about connection with. There is a presence – “the day-blind stars” – that waits.

Maybe on its deepest level, this is a poem about identity – coming into “the peace of wild things”. Wendell Berry is a poet very in tune with my heart and my history – and I listen well.


C. E. Chaffin said...

Excellent choice for the New Year, Sam. Stillness and wholeness. May they visit you this year; thanks for all the gems you've posted.

Maggie said...

I love the line "I come into the peace of wild things."

I, too, very much enjoy Mr. Berry. I had the pleasure of attending a symposium at the University of Kentucky (sponsored by the Ag and Lit Depts at UK) 2 years ago. I heard him read from a chapter from his book Hannah Coulter. He was such an engaging reader--such a presence on stage. I wanted him to keep reading all night! Barbara Kingsolver and Davis McCombs were there too (I think McCombs' book Ultima Thule is a must read).

Enjoyed the poem, Sam, and reading your thoughts on Mr. Berry.

May 2007 be a year of joy and beauty for you and yours.


Dennis said...

The pause is the key – being still and in the moment. The place where there is neither anxiety nor depression. It’s so beautiful that Berry is able to create a place that is so serene; he can feel the presence of the stars in daylight. A beautiful poem. Wonderful commentary.

Sam of the ten thousand things said...

Thanks CE and Dennis for your words here. Berry does feel the stars in daylight. For whatever reason, that part of the poem takes off the top of my head.

And Maggie, Berry is much too under-valued in Am. lit. Thanks for the comments.

Troglodyte said...

This is one of my favorite poems and favorite people. If I could be like anyone, Berry would be near the top of that list, well him and Gary Snyder!