(Masterpieces of American Literature)

The lyric poems in The Country of Marriage celebrate Berry’s rich and complex sense of place through the interlocking relationships of birth, marriage, livelihood, and heritage. The quiet, contemplative poems collected in this volume celebrate the land in its different moods and seasons. Through the dominant metaphors of marriage and husbandry, Berry invokes the deep and enduring relationship of his poetic persona, the “Mad Farmer,” to family, land, and place. Berry’s poems recall another poetic commitment to a particular place: the growth of William Carlos Williams’s poetry from his lifelong service as a pediatrician in Paterson, New Jersey.

In the opening poem, “The Old Elm Tree by the River,” Berry proclaims: “In us the land enacts its history.” These sentiments are later echoed in his lyric tribute to Agrarian writer Allen Tate, “The Clear Days,” in which Berry intimates that the poet and lover will remain distracted “Until the heart has found/ Its native piece of the ground.” In the final selection, “The Anniversary,” he concludes, “What we have been becomes/ The country where we are.” These poems are about Berry’s multiple marriages of commitment: to a region, a human relationship, a vocation, and a vision. The firmness and certainty of his commitment are reflected in the quiet, contemplative serenity of his lines.

Berry’s commitment to place is reinforced in his adulatory “To William Butler Yeats,” which celebrates the Irish poet’s loyalty to his native region: “Poet, you were but keeping faith/ With your native truth and place.” In “The Wild Geese,” the poet affirms that “What we need is here.” Another lyric, “A Homecoming,”...

(The entire section is 708 words.)