During the otherwise quiet course of his life as a poet, Wendell Berry has become “mad” at what contemporary society has made of its land, its communities, and its past. This anger reaches its peak in the poems of the Mad Farmer, an open-ended sequence he’s found himself impelled to continue against his better instincts. These poems can take the shape of manifestos, meditations, insults, Whitmanic fits and ravings-these are often funny in spite of themselves. The Mad Farmer is a character as necessary, perhaps, as he is regrettable.
We have here gathered the individual poems from Berry’s various collections to offer the teachings and bitcheries of this amazing American voice. After the great success of the lovely Window Poems, Bob Baris of the Press on Scroll Road, returns to design and produce an edition illustrated with etchings by Abigail Rover. His hand-press pages will be off-set for our trade edition.
Ed McClanahan offers an introduction wherein he clears up the inspiration behind the Mad Farmer himself. McClanahan also manages to take more credit than he is clearly due. Then Berry weighs in with an apology-and characteristic exaggeration. James Baker Hall and William Kloefkorn offer poems here that also show how the Mad Farmer has escaped into the work of others.
The whole is a wonderful testimony to the power of anger and humor to bring even the most terrible consequences into a focus otherwise impossible to obtain.