Reading Mindfully: Wendell Berry’s Poetry

Reading Mindfully: Wendell Berry’s Poetry

Each month, we pause for a moment to read mindfully, using literature as a springboard to think about, and to practice, compassion, empathy and awareness – of ourselves and of the world we live in.

April in the United States is National Poetry Month, and so it seems appropriate, as we read mindfully once again, to turn to a poet whose work emphasizes the relationship between the natural world and our deepest selves.

A fellow of the National Academy of Arts and Sciences and winner of the National Humanities Medal, Wendell Berry is a prolific writer of prose – fiction and nonfiction – and poetry. His work is deeply rooted in the exploration of place and nature, in considering what makes life both valuable and miraculous and in exposing the beauty of good work.

As you read Berry’s poetry, consider these questions:

  • How does Berry define “real work?” How would you?
  • How do we benefit by creating space for silence and reflection?
  • How can we access peace by observing the natural world?
  • What everyday miracles does Berry draw our attention to?
  • What everyday miracles do you tend to overlook?

Read Wendell Berry’s poems below, or listen to him read:

“How to be a Poet”

“To My Mother”

“The Peace of Wild Things”

“The Man Born to Farming”

Image: Vincent van Gogh, Farmhouse in a Wheat Field, 1888, Arles, France [Public Domain] via

Further Reading

April, Come She Will

Phenomenal: Bringing Maya Angelou’s Poetry to Cleveland Single Moms

Reading Mindfully: Chekhov’s “The Princess”

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Cecily Erin Hill

Cecily Erin Hill

Cecily Hill is the Project Director, NEH for All at the National Humanities Alliance and former member of the Books@Work team.