The Complexity of Simplicity

Have you ever picked up a book at random and been surprised when it feels like it was written just for you? And not just for you. For you at this precise moment in your life.

You can flip to any page and find a passage that speaks to your soul.

That’s how I feel about The Selected Poems of Wendell Berry.

I found myself at the library ten minutes before closing time on Sunday and the flashing lights signaling for patrons to pack up and check out got my adrenaline going.

I usually give myself more time, and I needed a book like a drug to take the edge off my anxiety. So I went around grabbing stacks of paper and pushing them into my tattered reusable grocery bag.

And that’s how Wendell Berry, a name I’d heard before but never experienced, made his way onto the teetering stack of books on my nightstand.

His poems touch on subjects that have been weighing heavily on me lately…
The transitory nature of life and the world. The mechanization of work and how it distances us from feeling human. Contentment and simplicity.

He paints beautiful scenes and landscapes colored by his experience working as a farmer.

This summary from the back of the book is beautiful and accurate: “…Berry’s play of sound and syntax moves in our minds like something just remembered, and remains with us like an afterimage on the eye.”

Full disclosure: I’m not usually one to skim through or read books of poetry, but there’s so much depth and beauty between these pages that I feel like it needs to be shared.

Nothing is simple,
not even simplification.
Thus, throwing away
the mail, I exchange
the complexity of duty
for the simplicity of guilt.
— Throwing Away the Mail, Wendell Berry

You can find the book on Amazon. Or, even better, request it from your local library.

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