01 February 2009


My 16-year-old daughter, Sanjina Marie, and I made our periodic trek yesternight to one of the big-box bookstores here on the Mississippi Gulf Coast (with soymilk latte for me and hot chocolate for her) so she could lose herself for hours in the fantasy section and I search for articles to annotate for Journal of Geography. There I found a new poem by fellow Kentuckian Wendell Berry in the current Harper's (Feb. 2009, p. 20). Its title is "By Chance, Of Course," is just 26 lines and has a startling last two lines, which I will not repeat here.

I will, though, copy its prolegomenon with my insertions:

"While attending the annual convocation of Cause Theorists and Bigbangists [must have been a conference of theoretical astrophysicists] at the local provincial research university [most likely the University of Kentucky, where he has long been an adjunct professor; the use of "provincial," of course, is mildly pejorative and has the connotation of "lacking refinement"], the mad farmer [ha! W. B. himself; neat contrast to scientists] intercedes from the backrow" [a clever way to introduce the piece by literally emplacing himself, as poet-observer, on a distant perch where he can observe the scientistic view of life].

The poem is about the reality of Chance, in which--it is clear (caustic and emphatic ending, as I said)--W. B. does not believe. Berry's is a spiritual view of the Universe, I'd say, without talking directly about religion.

Sorry I did not copy the entire poem; but I wanted you to seek it out, if this is your wont.

To be fair to science, though, it does not...oh, heck, let science speak for itself. Our everyday experience of life is indeed poetic.

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