In the latest issue of The City, Aaron Belz reviews The Humane Vision of Wendell Berry. It’s a mostly favorable review, but Belz expresses disappointment that there isn’t more critical engagement with Berry in the volume. Belz only hints at what such a critical engagement might be, noting Berry’s debt to an earlier naturalism. I am not a Berry scholar, but some of Berry’s Sabbath poems have always raised a few questions in my mind about the relationship between God and nature in Berry’s work–poems with lines like these:
Another Sunday morning comesAnd I resume the standing SabbathOf the woods, where the finest bloomsOf time return, and where not pathIs worn but wears its makers outAt last, and disappears in leavesOf fallen seasons. The tracked rutFills and levels; here nothing grievesIn the risen season. Past lifeLives in the living. ResurrectionIs in the way each maple leafCommemorates its kind, by connection
Berry writes within a generally Christian tradition, and he is all the rage these days with all sorts of Christians, hipsters and non-hipsters alike, but I for one would like to learn more about what he means by “Past life / Lives in the living,” or in another poem when he writes that “Sometimes here [earth] / we are there [heaven], and there is no death.”
That “sometimes” is very coy. At the moment, it seems this is the best bet for further study.