Entries Essay - Critical Essays

Wendell Berry


Wendell Berry’s newest poetry volume, ENTRIES, contains forty-three new lyric and reflective poems of grace and wisdom. These poems of the past decade celebrate the continuities of ordinary life: marriage, children, prayer, love, the loss of friends and parents. Formal in structure but casual in tone, Berry’s poems speak to readers like quiet meditations of a voice totally at home in the world. His lyrics show the strength and suppleness, the clarity and conciseness of the finest American poets.

Part 1 contains many poems about Berry’s family. Among the most notable poems in ENTRIES is “A Marriage Song,” dedicated to his daughter Mary, expressing in finely crafted sestets a parent’s thoughts on a snowy January wedding day. “The Wild Rose” pays tribute to the poet’s wife; “Voices Late at Night” contrasts the poet’s prayers with life’s ironic response; “To My Mother” expresses the gratitude of a rebellious son; “The Blue Robe” recollects childhood memories of his grandmother’s love; “Thirty More Years” articulates the poet’s sense of his mortality; and “A Parting” mourns the loss of his friend Arthur Rowanberry.

Perhaps the most remarkable poems in ENTRIES are the series of titles in part 4, “In Extremis,” dedicated to the memory of Berry’s father. In this cycle of twelve poems, Berry recalls disagreements with his father about the Vietnam War, his father’s high standards and deep influence on him, his fierce independence and integrity, his love of the land, his helplessness in old age, and his imagined reunion in death with his parents.

“In a Motel Parking Lot, Thinking of Dr. Williams” expresses Berry’s tribute to William Carlos Williams as one of the essential American poetic voices, without whose wisdom a culture languishes. ENTRIES demonstrates that Berry, too, is one of these necessary voices.

Sources for Further Study

Booklist. XC, April 1, 1994, p. 1419.

Library Journal. CXIX, April 15, 1994, p. 81.

Publishers Weekly. XXIV, February 28, 1994, p. 77.