The Poem

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

“Where” is a long pastoral meditation on the history and uses of the fifty-acre farm (Lane’s Landing) in Henry County, Kentucky, which Wendell and Tanya Berry purchased in parcels between 1965 and 1968. The poem exists in two forms: a longer, didactic form originally published in Not Man Apart (1975) and Clearings (1977), and a shorter, revised, more lyrical version that appeared later in Collected Poems: 1957-1982 (1985). The two versions are so different that they could almost be considered as separate poems.

The original, longer version of “Where” shifts between an impersonal, historical, third-person point of view and a more distinct first-person poetic voice (it is the dominant voice of Clearings, the Wendell Berry persona of the farmer-poet). The revised, shorter version of the poem retains more of the impersonal third-person perspective and lacks a clear persona except for an occasional personal pronoun, so that the speaker’s presence is merely implicit in the poem.

The original version of “Where” addresses the general questions: “Who owned this land before me?” and “What was its history?” Berry traces the previous ownership of the fifty-acre farm back almost two hundred years to the original land survey by two Scots-Irish settlers, Thomas and Walker Daniels, when it was part of a thousand-acre tract on the Kentucky River. Then he recounts how the land was successively...

(The entire section is 409 words.)