I think poetry may be our best ally for connecting with the earth, with our roots, with our spiritual nature. Mystics for generations have used poetry as a way to convey their oneness with everything – a state of being that all say is so very hard to describe. We don’t have to have undergone an enlightenment experience, however, to struggle with how to put into words the wonderment, the awe, we feel about our lives and this world.

Arguably, there is probably no one better at finding the balance of words and emotional connectedness to take us to the heart of meaning than Wendell Berry. He takes the small moments in life and excavates the meaning and importance of them, and he does so with language that is simple – something we often forget, as poets, is important – providing a welcome to all people who come to drink at this well of words. He speaks from his heart to ours.

Look at the beginning of his poem, “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.

His words are common, his sentiments universal; he captures in totality our fears and our need for relief.

Here’s a bit of another of his poems, “Like the Water”:

Like the water

of a deep stream,

love is always too much.

We did not make it.

Though we drink till we burst,

we cannot have it all,

or want it all.

In its abundance

it survives our thirst.

With such unpretentious clarity, he tells us what we already know about ourselves, but have not found a way to voice – how thirsty we all are for love, and how, no matter how much we drink of it, take from it, there is more available. No showy words, no lofty phrase – yet rich in metaphors and images. You do not have to be educated or a poetry whiz to understand exactly what he is talking about.

In “The Man Born to Farming,” he slides us into the life of the farmer, simply by standing witness to the day in, day out practice of what every gardener knows.

The Grower of Trees, the gardener, the man born to farming,

whose hands reach into the ground and sprout

to him the soil is a divine drug.  He enters into death

yearly, and comes back rejoicing.  He has seen the light lie down

in the dung heap, and rise again in the corn.

His thought passes along the row ends like a mole.

So often, we think poets have to use fifty-cent words to make them look intelligent and poet-like. But the real gift a poet brings to his or her subject is that of true awareness, of taking the time to look deeply and understand what the poem is really talking about and then, as clearly as possible, sharing that meaning in ways that reach the reader’s mind and heart.

Wendall Berry is a keen observer and we can learn much from not only what he writes about nature and being, but also how he writes about these things. Then try some of your own.

To read more of his poems, try one of the following sites:

Gratefulness.org:

American Poems:

Poems of Wendell Berry:

Just a few days left of National Poetry Month. Every day this month, I have offered some tips, advice, and inspiration for writing poetry. Check it out at My Blog. Next month we’ll go back to postings on all types of creative writing.  Next month, I will be the guest of Susan Hickman, Ph.D., on her radio show, Mind of the Matter. It's available on Voice of America to listen to, at your convenience, starting on May 3.