Alexandria Poetry Conversations: ‘The Peace of Wild Things’

Alexandria Poetry Conversations: ‘The Peace of Wild Things’

“Poetry is a life-cherishing force. For poems are not words, after all, but fires for the cold, ropes let down to the lost, something as necessary as bread in the pockets of the hungry. Yes indeed.” — Mary Oliver


Wendi R. Kaplan

Hello Alexandria! I am thrilled to have been appointed as the Poet Laureate of Alexandria. Yes, I write poetry, I read poetry and even use poetry in my work as a clinical social worker and teacher.

In this occasional column I will be sharing poetry with you, poetry that I hope will spark creative thoughts and conversations. I will be asking you readers about the poetry that you are inspired by, poems that may have soothed, excited and challenged you. This is a column to begin the conversation about poetry and what it means to you.

I have many beloved poets and poems. They are friends and guides to me. Lately I have been turning to a poem I often refer to as a best friend. It is called “The Peace Of Wild Things” by Wendell Berry, a Kentucky farmer, writer, activist and keen observer of our culture. In these turbulent times, when our politics is harshly divisive, when people are being killed without regard in Dallas, Orlando, Baton Rouge, Ferguson, Nice, Washington D.C. and in all corners of this planet, I reach out for words to help balance me and provide me support and perspective. Berry’s poem reminds me that I am not alone in my concerns and that there are simple things I can do to calm myself. It reminds me that nature and attention can create new possibilities. It connects me to myself, to others, to nature and to quietude. When I read it I take a deep breath and feel the peace he describes.

How does this poem speak to you?

The Peace of Wild Things

When despair for the world grows in me

and I wake in the night at the least sound

in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,

I go and lie down where the wood drake

rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.

I come into the peace of wild things

who do not tax their lives with forethought

of grief. I come into the presence of still water.

And I feel above me the day-blind stars

Waiting with their light. For a time

I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

— Wendell Berry

I am looking forward to hearing from you Alexandrians. Let’s keep the conversation going.