Wendell (Erdman) Berry 1934–
American poet, novelist, and essayist.
Whatever genre Berry chooses, his message is consistent: we must seek to live in harmony with nature. Like Thoreau, with whom he is often compared, Berry is a writer of place. He uses his life on his Kentucky farm as an example of how the ordering and healing qualities of nature should be allowed to function in one's life. In all of Berry's work, and especially in his ecological essays, he speaks of the danger inherent in disrupting the natural cycle of life. Berry particularly emphasizes the importance of physical exercise to mental wellbeing and the dangers of what he calls "agribusiness," the capitalist treatment of the land. Critics consider Recollected Essays 1965–1980 (1982) to be the finest volume of Berry's expository prose.
Berry's early novels, Nathan Coulter (1960) and A Place on Earth (1967), received a moderate amount of positive critical attention. It is nevertheless as a poet and an essayist that Berry has earned his literary reputation. Although no single volume of Berry's verse stands out, critics have appraised his poetry as being consistently good. Both Berry's poetry and prose are noted for the very direct use of language. His recent collections of verse, A Part (1981) and The Wheel (1982), are characteristically pastoral.
(See also CLC, Vols. 4, 6, 8; Contemporary Authors, Vols. 73-76; and Dictionary of Literary Biography, Vol. 6.)