“SEVENTY-TWO labors brought us this food, / we should know how it comes to us.” For more than four decades now, in his essays, novels, short stories, and poems, Wendell Berry has been reminding us of the labors of the farmers who literally bring us our food. He has lamented the passing of a rural way of life that understood and respected that labor, and passed its knowledge from generation to generation.
In the preface to this new book of poems, Berry writes that “in a society gone insane with industrial greed & insecurity, a man exuberantly sane will appear to be ‘mad.’” So these are poems in the voice of a “mad” farmer, who exhorts us:
So, friend, every day do something That won’t compute. Love the Lord. Love the world. Work for nothing. Take all that you have and be poor. Love somebody who does not deserve it.
The copy of the book I’m holding was typeset, printed, and bound entirely by hand in an edition of only sixty copies. Its making embodies the values of its words. I bow to the labors of all those who brought it to me.
Barry Magid, M.D., is a psychiatrist, psychoanalyst, Zen teacher, and author. “For about ten years, I had a sideline as a letterpress printer and publisher (and printed a little story by Berry), and I’ve kept up with the world of small presses and fine printing.”
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