Written at the Long Legged House (Berry's cabin by the river), the Window Poems
feel like early work of a man testing himself and earning his way. These twenty seven short poems follow one on another, rising and ebbing as Berry considers the world outside his window alongside the weight of his own convictions. Though he is widely known for the clear-sightedness of his essays, Wendell Berry has always been a poet. There's an edge and a vibrance in these poems--a sharp ear for the way words rub and fit--that seem to have softened in his later work: The wind's eye / to see into the wind. / The eye in its hollow / looking out / through the black frame / at the waves the wind / drives up the river, / whitecaps, a wild day, / the white sky / traveled by snow squalls, / the trees thrashing, / the corn blades driven, / quivering, straight out.
Yet in keeping with the careful economy he strives to live by, the words are not an end in themselves. They serve to help the writer find his way to meaning and more authentic being in the world he shares with all living things (such as the birds at his feeder): the man, knowing / the price of seed, wishes / they would take more care. / But they understand only / what is free, and he / can give only as they / will take. Thus they have / enlightened him. He buys / the seed, to make it free.
Originally designed and printed on a handpress with wood engravings accompanying the handset text, the book itself is a testament to Berry's own attentive habitation.
An Eighth Day View:
Since 1979, Wendell Berry has taken a walk almost every Sunday. Often on these walks of meditation and reflection, he finds himself making notes for poems. Some years he has accomplished as many as fifteen or twenty poems from those walks, while in other years only half a dozen. The resultant work has been published in collections of Sabbath Poems, a precursor to which was The Window Poems. The Window Poems was composed while Berry looked out of the multi-paned window of his writing studio, "The Long-Legged House," which is near the renovated farmhouse where Berry and his wife raised their children and continue to live. These poems contemplate Berry's personal life as much as they ponder the seasons he witnessed through the window. This beautiful book was first designed, composed, and printed on a Washington handpress by Bob Baris, at the Press on Scroll Road, with wood engravings by Wesley Bates. Including an introduction by James Baker Hall, this early sequence of poems signals and celebrates the groundwork of Berry's life.