The Poetry of CreaturesDid you get a chance to listen to this week’s show with Prof. Ellen Davis discussing her approach to sustainability — through an agrarian reading of the Bible — along with Wendell Berry reading his poems?

If you haven’t, swell. This Sunday morning exercise is ripe for the picking. Then you’ll have a fresh perspective unencumbered by the content. You won’t get mired in the details of summarizing or full description. You are our target audience. You are the listeners we want to grab with the title and draw in. Now, if you have heard the show, that’s great too. Then you’ll have an insider perspective, an intimate understanding of the interviews and readings. The content may inform your decision. And you may sympathize with our plight.

Here are a few titles we considered:

» “The Poetry of Creatures”
» “An Exquisite Attention to a Fragile Land”
 » “Land, Life, and the Poetry of Creatures”

Show titles do a lot of work. They appear in one-minute bumpers to the show and within the show itself. They are part of promotional spots on the radio. The appear in iTunes podcast feeds and on our email update, websites, Facebook page, blog, Twitter. Duke University will uses it in their communication.

Which one would you have chosen? What’s an alternative you might suggest? Should it be just catchy? Should it tell you more about the show? Should it be a tease? How will it render in a graphic for our online channels. Will it help in our search rankings?

These are the few of the questions we ask when titling. And, as you can see, we struggle mightily with this task. We labor, we strive, we grope, we concede. But we always end up with something. For this show, I can’t help wonder if we could’ve done better.

Share Your Reflection



As a long-time organic gardener turned subsistence farmer and local clean-food producer, I was particularly interested in this interview. Having considered recommending Wendell Berry as an interview guest, it was exciting to hear that some of his poetry would be part of this article.

Ellen Davis's insights and observations are delightful and inspiring, especially to a guy who is an amatuer bible student that has long recognized that our Creator takes our treatment of this planet very seriously. Afterall, He will "...destroy those who destrioy the earth" one scripture warns us. And one need only to stroll among contented cows in the pasture, or in the thick of abundant harvest from the vegetable field to recognize that truly "the whole earth is full of His glory...". The majesty of our Colorado mountains, or the grandeur of a seaside vista certainly have an inspiring and transcendent quality, and speak to our hearts that "the firmament is His handiwork". But I find that there is a much deeper quality to natural settings where they involve the sources of our sustenance; of our Creator's loving provision.

There is a tremendous "magic" to the cycles of seed time and harvest, of life and decay that involves the whole spectrum of organisms from our own bodies and other vertibrates to the insects, bacteria and fungi that form the incredibly intricate food web where nutrients are continually cycled through the bodies of billions (really, trilliions) of living things. And when we involve somewhat intelligent living creatures that will die and shed blood to provide life to us, the spiritual ramifications quickly become obvious.

Farm animals clearly know and recognize their keepers, even seem to display some level of affection for those keepers. To see them as merely masses of protoplasm to be manipulated like machines (yes, I borrowed this verbiage from Joel Salatin, concerning whom it is good to see your acknowledement on this site) seems somehow psychopathic, sociopathic. We develop primitive relationships with these animals which we fully intend to kill and use as food; animals that clearly have the divine spark of life that cannot be explained through mere scientific or biological means. This should be a deeply spiritual process, infused with sincere humility, gratitude, and respect for life and for the Creator's goodness toward us and them. Again, the scriptural connections are abundant.

Your interview with Barbara Kingsolver comes to mind here.

Interestingly, it was easy to hear Wendell Berry's thoughts in much of what Ms. Davis shared during your interview with her. Some of my most favorite essays of his are from his book titled "Culture & Agriculture". Many of his thoughts were reflected in the content of the discussion, aside from the poems he read for us. I believe he would make for a great guest on the show. Joel Salatin could also prove an interesting one...

Thank you for this program. I hope you have more opportunity to pursue this topic as well as the many related areas of thought. I will throw some suggestions to the appropriate spot on this site.

Grieving the miscarriage of my first pregnancy at the somewhat late age of 36, July 30th, 2000, the day after accepting the opportunity to help people clear weeds from a beautiful vegetable garden in Connecticut, I visited Kripalu and was given an exercise to write a poem in about fifteen minutes. It turned out to be very healing to link the hope of preparing the ground for planting, with believing that I dared to try to become pregnant again, to dare to ask my husband to risk going through the agony of grieving another pregnancy.

As it turns out, a year later - to the exact day - I gave birth to my son! I realized this just now, when this photograph of gloriously muddy feet made me search for the journal I was using then.

"Late, late spring."

I stand with my bare feet in rich, dark dirt,
Wriggling my toes gratefully.
Grateful for this late, late spring opportunity
To sow a seed.

A seed of an unknown plant
That I will nurture anyway
So I can just count the leaves
and marvel at their shape
And just notice the stem
and appreciate its support and its direction
And just discover buds swelling, joyfully,
to colourful bloom and fragrance
And just wonder at the roots
That wiggle too
In this rich, dark dirt.

I didn't hear the SOF program that goes with the photo, and choose not to listen to it until after I have posted this poem. I know I haven't answered the challenge of "What title would you have given it?". But if one person who needs hope is encouraged, however accidentally, by reading it, then I think that it will have done great work.

As I write, my son is away; camping for three nights with my husband and a band of Cub Scouts, so for the first time since his birth I am experiencing life without daily contact with him. I realize that for all the relief I was feeling at some time to myself, I am still focussing on him, and looking forward to holding him in my arms again! It is great for the mother of an eight-year-old boy to be reminded how much they longed for this person to come in to being. This poem was spiritual for me because it was about accepting the uncontrollable and the unknown, and because it expressed my gratitude and wonder.

I stand with

I think the title was beautiful.. I appreciate it even more after listening to the show twice.. I had to savor the listening the second time