"How to Be a Poet"

(to remind myself)

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Wendell Berryby Wendell Berry
i

Make a place to sit down.
Sit down. Be quiet.
You must depend upon
affection, reading, knowledge,
skill—more of each
than you have—inspiration,
work, growing older, patience,
for patience joins time
to eternity. Any readers
who like your poems,
doubt their judgment.

ii

Breathe with unconditional breath
the unconditioned air.
Shun electric wire.
Communicate slowly. Live
a three-dimensioned life;
stay away from screens.
Stay away from anything
that obscures the place it is in.
There are no unsacred places;
there are only sacred places
and desecrated places.

iii

Accept what comes from silence.
Make the best you can of it.
Of the little words that come
out of the silence, like prayers
prayed back to the one who prays,
make a poem that does not disturb
the silence from which it came.

© Wendell Berry. This poem is excerpted from "The Selected Poems of Wendell Berry" and is reprinted with permission of the author and Counterpoint Press.

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is the Amos Ragan Kearns Distinguished Professor of Bible and Practical Theology at the Duke University Divinity School and the author of Scripture, Culture, and Agriculture.

Berry is a farmer, poet, and moral essayist who has published more than 40 books. He lives in Port William, Kentucky.