2013 Richard C. Holbrooke
Distinguished Achievement Award

Wendell Berry, 2013 Richard C. Holbrooke Distinguished Achievement Award Winner
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(Click photo to see acceptance speech at awards dinner.)

Wendell Berry

"In a time that spends so many words and dollars upon conflict it is encouraging to be noticed for having said a few words in favor of peace."

                                    - Wendell Berry

Wendell Berry is the author of more than fifty books of poetry, fiction, and essays. He was recently awarded the National Humanities Medal, the Cleanth Brooks Medal for Lifetime Achievement by the Fellowship of Southern Writers, and the Louis Bromfield Society Award. For more than forty years, he has lived and farmed with his wife, Tanya Berry, in Kentucky.

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Wendell Berry: Poet & Prophet with Bill Moyers on PBS

First broadcast on Friday, October 4, 2013
(Click here to check your local listings.)

 
Excerpt from Jayber Crow by Wendell Berry

I imagined that soldiers who are killed in war just disappear from the places where they are killed. Their deaths may be remembered by the comrades who saw them die, if the comrades live to remember. Their deaths will not be remembered where they happened. They will not be remembered in the halls of the government. Where do dead soldiers die who are killed in battle? They die at home—in Port William and thousands of other little darkened places, in thousands upon thousands of houses where The News comes, and everything on the tables and shelves is all of a sudden a relic and a reminder forever.

 
Additional Citations:

Wendell Berry published his first book over fifty years ago. Dozens followed—books of poems, essays, stories, novels. The American literary landscape bloomed with many voices and trends during those five decades, but beneath whatever was currently in fashion Berry’s voice remained the same: autochthonous, authentic, enduring. It comprised a kind of moral American literary bedrock, something all of us, knowing or not, stood upon.

His voice speaks from the heart. It whispers--and sometimes shouts--from the heart of the heart of the country. And what it has demanded all along is an unimaginable peace; unimaginable because few others understood that true peace is not only a condition that applies to and between humans, but one that extends to the non-human world as well. And in order to achieve any kind of lasting harmony between ourselves and others, we must also achieve harmony with what we walk on and breathe in and eat from and live by—the earth itself.

Berry belongs to a tradition of writer farmers going back to Virgil and the early pastoral poets. Like Frost and Thoreau, he has written our American Georgics. Few poets have been so intimately involved with soil. Few live in their daily life the historical connection between culture and agriculture. Berry intuited early on that poems are artifacts of place, and narratives, however urban, grow from a particular topsoil, and stories arrive out of a medium indivisible from their terroir.

We are all just catching up now to what he has been saying for fifty years: “Violence against one is violence against all. The willingness to abuse other bodies is the willingness to abuse one’s own. To damage the earth is to damage your children.”

One might sum up Berry’s life and work in one word: non-duality. He is both a contemplative and an activist. A farmer and a poet. To him, his community and the world are the same. A field and a page are the same. The health of the soil and the health of its citizens are the same. His writings, in their many intelligent and resplendent forms, have brought us to a new understanding of what peace can look like.

- Brad Kessler
2007 Fiction Award Winner
Sandgate, Vermont


 



 

A community, according to Wendell Berry, “is the mental and spiritual condition of knowing that the place is shared, and that the people who share the place define and limit the possibilities of each other’s lives.” It’s hard to imagine more beautifully succinct statement of the fundamental equation of peace.

Berry has written more than 40 works of poetry, fiction and nonfiction, and received a bounty of awards that establish him as an icon of American letters. But outstanding among his accomplishments is his devotion to a life of principled stewardship. Native son of Henry County, Kentucky, he belongs to the fifth generation of farmers whom he describes as the type of people who stay in place – “motivated by affection, by such love for a place and its life that they want to preserve it and remain in it.” Wendell, in turn, has never separated himself from his home terrain. “To live and belong in a place, to live from a place without destroying it,” he said in his 2012 Jefferson lecture, “is to recognize with sympathy the fellow members, human and nonhuman, with whom we share our place… And it is in affection that we find the possibility of a neighborly, kind, and conserving economy.”

His words quietly rend our hearts with understanding of what humanity has done to itself and our only home, while bravely laying out the coordinates of a goodness we still can imagine. Wendell Berry keeps reminding us that we do not have to live as if we are alone.

- Barbara Kingsolver
2011 Holbrooke Award Winner


 
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