Inducted 2015
Born: August 5, 1934
Henry County, Kentucky

Wendell Erdman Berry is Kentucky’s most prolific and well-known living writer. In dozens of books, he has mastered three genres: fiction (both novels and short stories), poetry, and essays. He also is known internationally as a cultural critic, environmental activist, farmer, and advocate for sustainable agriculture.

Berry’s career began with his first novel, Nathan Coulter, in 1960. His first book of poetry, The Broken Ground, was released in 1964 and his first book of non-fiction, The Long-Legged House, in 1969. His writing is grounded in the notion that one’s work ought to be rooted in and responsive to one’s place. His philosophy of peace, environmentalism, conservation and regard for the Earth is best explained in his own words:

But when nothing is valued for what it is, everything is destined to be wasted. Once the values of things refer only to their future usefulness, then an infinite withdrawal of value from the living present has begun. Nothing (and nobody) can then exist that is not theoretically replaceable by something (or somebody) more valuable. The country that we (or some of us) had thought to make our home becomes instead ‘a nation rich in natural resources’; the good bounty of the land begins its mechanical metamorphosis into junk, garbage, silt, poison, and other forms of ‘waste.’ The inevitable result of such an economy is that no farm or any other usable property can safely be regarded by anyone as a home, no home is ultimately worthy of our loyalty, nothing is ultimately worth doing, and no place or task or person is worth a lifetime’s devotion. ‘Waste,’ in such an economy, must eventually include several categories of humans – the unborn, the old, ‘disinvested’ farmers, the unemployed, the ‘unemployable.’ Indeed, once our homeland, our source, is regarded as a resource, we are all sliding downward toward the ash heap or the dump.

Berry has deep roots in Kentucky. He is the eldest of four children born to John Marshall Berry, a lawyer and tobacco farmer, and Virginia Erdman Berry. The families of both of his parents have farmed in Henry County for at least five generations.

Berry attended Millersburg Military Institute, then earned a B.A. and M.A. in English at the University of Kentucky. He attended Stanford University’s creative writing program as a Wallace Stegner Fellow, studying under Stegner in a seminar that included Edward Abbey, Larry McMurtry, Robert Stone, Ernest Gaines, Tillie Olsen, and Ken Kesey.

From 1962 to 1964, Berry taught English at New York University’s University College in the Bronx. The next year he and his wife, Tanya Amyx Berry, moved with their children to a farm he purchased at Lane’s Landing in Henry County and began growing corn and small grains on what eventually became a 125-acre homestead. Berry has lived, farmed and written at Lane’s Landing ever since. He has written about his early experiences on the land and about his decision to return to it in essays such as “The Long-Legged House” and “A Native Hill.”

Berry taught creative writing at the University of Kentucky from 1964 to 1977. He edited and wrote for Rodale Press publications, includingOrganic Gardening and Farmingand The New Farm, from 1977 to 1980. He returned to UK’s English Department in 1987 and taught there until 1993.

Berry was awarded the National Humanities Medal and chosen to give the 41st Jefferson Lecture in the Humanities, the federal government’s highest honor in the humanities, on April 23, 2012. Among his many other awards: A Guggenheim Fellowship (1961) that took Berry and his family to France and Italy; the Bess Hokin Prize by Poetry Magazine (1967); Borestone Mountain Poetry Award (1969); National Institute of Arts and Letters Award for Excellence in Writing (1971); Friends for American Writers Award (1975); Lannan Foundation Award (1989); T. S. Eliot Award (1994); Kentucky Libraries Award’ for Intellectual Excellence (1993); The Orion Society John Hay Award (1993); Sewanee Review Aiken Taylor Award for Modern American Poetry (1994) Thomas Merton Award (1999); Poets’ Prize (2000); Art of Fact Award for Non-Fiction (2006); The Cleanth Brooks Medal for Lifetime Achievement from the Fellowship of Southern Writers (2009); Fellowship of Southern Writers (2012); Fellow of The American Academy of Arts and Sciences (2013); The Peggy V. Helmerich Distinguished Author Award (2012); Russell Kirk Paideia Prize, for a Lifetime of Cultivating Wisdom and Virtue (2012), The American Academy of Arts and Sciences (2013); The Roosevelt Institute’s Freedom Medal (2013); The Richard C. Holbrooke Distinguished Achievement Award of the Dayton Literary Peace Prize (2013); the Martin E. Marty Award for the Public Understanding of Religion from The American Academy of Religion (2013); and the Sidney Lanier Prize from the Center for Southern Studies at Mercer University in Atlanta (2016).

Selected bibliography

Nathan Coulter. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1960.

A Place on Earth. Boston: Harcourt, Brace, 1967.

The Memory of Old Jack. New York: Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich 1974.

A Place on Earth. San Francisco: North Point, 1983.

Nathan Coulter. San Francisco: North Point, 1985.

The Wild Birds: Six Stories of the Port William Membership. San Francisco: North Point, 1986.

Remembering. San Francisco: North Point, 1988.

Fidelity: Five Stories. New York: Pantheon, 1992.

Watch with Me and Six Other Stories of the Yet-Remembered Ptolemy Proudfoot and His Wife, Miss Minnie, Née Quinch. New York: Pantheon, 1994.

A World Lost. Washington, D.C.: Counterpoint, 1996.

Jayber Crow. Washington, D.C.: Counterpoint, 2000.

A Place on Earth. Washington, D.C.: Counterpoint, 2001.

The Memory of Old Jack. Washington, D.C.: Counterpoint 2001.

Three Short Novels (Nathan CoulterRememberingA World Lost). Washington, D.C.: Counterpoint, 2002.

Hannah Coulter. Washington, D.C.: Shoemaker & Hoard. 2004.

That Distant Land: The Collected Stories. Washington, D.C.: Shoemaker & Hoard, 2004.

Andy Catlett: Early Travels. Washington, D. C.: Shoemaker & Hoard, 2006.

Whitefoot: A Story from the Center of the World. Berkeley: Counterpoint. 2009.

A Place in Time: Twenty Stories of the Port William Membership. Berkeley: Counterpoint, 2012.

The Great Interruption. Monterey, KY: Larkspur Press, 2019.

Stand by Me. United Kingdom: Allen Lane, 2019.

The Long-Legged House. New York: Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich, 1969.

The Hidden Wound. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1970.

The Unforeseen Wilderness: Kentucky’s Red River Gorge. Photographs by Ralph Eugene Meatyard. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1971.

A Continuous Harmony: Essays Cultural & Agricultural. New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1972.

The Unsettling of America: Culture and Agriculture. San Francisco: Sierra Club, 1977.

The Gift of Good Land: Further Essays Cultural and Agricultural. San Francisco: North Point, 1981.

Recollected Essays: 1965–1980. San Francisco: North Point, 1981.

Standing by Words. San Francisco: North Point, 1983.

Meeting the Expectations of the Land: Essays in Sustainable Agriculture and Stewardship. Eds. Wes Jackson and Bruce Colman. San Francisco: North Point, 1984.

Home Economics: Fourteen Essays. San Francisco: North Point, 1987.

Descendants and Ancestors of Captain James W. Berry, with Laura Berry. Bowling Green, KY: Hub, 1990.

Harlan Hubbard: Life and Work. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1990.

What Are People For? New York: North Point, 1990.

Standing on Earth: (Selected Essays). United Kingdom: Golgonooza Press, 1991.

Sex, Economy, Freedom & Community. New York: Pantheon, 1992.

Another Turn of the Crank. Washington, D.C.: Counterpoint, 1996.

Grace: Photographs of Rural America with Gregory Spaid and Gene Logsdon. New London, New Hampshire: Safe Harbor Books, 2000.

Life Is a Miracle. Washington, D.C.: Counterpoint, 2000.

In the Presence of Fear: Three Essays for a Changed World. Great Barrington, MA: Orion, 2001.

The Art of the Commonplace: The Agrarian Essays of Wendell Berry. Ed. Norman Wirzba. Washington, D.C.: Counterpoint, 2002.

Citizens Dissent: Security, Morality, and Leadership in an Age of Terror. (With David James Duncan. Foreword by Laurie Lane-Zucker) Great Barrington, MA: Orion, 2003.

Citizenship Papers. Washington, D.C.: Shoemaker & Hoard, 2003.

Tobacco Harvest: An Elegy. Photographs by James Baker Hall. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 2004.

The Long-Legged House. Washington, D.C.: Shoemaker & Hoard, 2004.

A Continuous Harmony: Essays Cultural & Agricultural. Washington, D.C.: Shoemaker & Hoard, 2004.

Blessed Are the Peacemakers: Christ’s Teachings about Love, Compassion & Forgiveness. Washington, D.C.: Shoemaker & Hoard, 2005.

The Way of Ignorance and Other Essays. Washington, D.C.: Shoemaker & Hoard, 2005.

Standing by Words. Washington, D.C.: Shoemaker & Hoard, 2005.

Bringing It to the Table: On Farming and Food. Berkeley: Counterpoint, 2009.

The Gift of Good Land: Further Essays Cultural and Agricultural. San Francisco: Washington, D.C.: Counterpoint, 2009.

Home Economics: Fourteen Essays. Berkeley: Counterpoint, 2009.

Imagination in Place. Berkeley: Counterpoint, 2010.

What Matters? Economics for a Renewed Commonwealth. Berkeley: Counterpoint, 2010.

The Poetry of William Carlos Williams of Rutherford. Berkeley: Counterpoint, 2011.

It All Turns on Affection: The Jefferson Lecture and Other Essays. Berkeley: Counterpoint, 2012.

Distant Neighbors: The Selected Letters of Wendell Berry and Gary Snyder. Ed. Chad Wriglesworth. Berkeley: Counterpoint, 2014.

Our Only World. Berkeley: Counterpoint, 2015.

The World-Ending Fire: The Essential Wendell Berry.  United Kingdom: Allen Lane, 2017.

The Broken Ground. New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1964.

November twenty six nineteen hundred sixty three. New York: Braziller, 1964.

Openings. New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1968.

Farming: A Hand Book. New York: Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich, 1970.

The Country of Marriage. New York: Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich, 1973.

An Eastward Look. Berkeley, California: Sand Dollar, 1974.

Sayings and Doings. Frankfort, Kentucky: Gnomon, 1975.

Clearing. New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1977.

A Part. San Francisco: North Point, 1980.

The Wheel. San Francisco, North Point, 1982.

The Collected Poems, 1957-1982. San Francisco: North Point, 1985.

Sabbaths: Poems. San Francisco: North Point, 1987.

Traveling at Home. Press Alley, 1988.

Traveling at Home. San Francisco:  North Point, 1989.

Entries. New York: Pantheon, 1994.

The Farm. Monterey, Kentucky: Larkspur, 1995.

Entries. Washington, D.C.: Counterpoint, 1997.

A Timbered Choir: The Sabbath Poems 1979-1997. Washington, D.C.: Counterpoint, 1998.

The Selected Poems of Wendell Berry. Washington, D.C.: Counterpoint, 1999.

The Gift of Gravity, Selected: Poems, 1968-2000. United Kingdom: Golgonooza Press, 2002.

Sabbaths 2002. Monterey, Kentucky: Larkspur, 2004.

GivenNew Poems. Washington D.C.: Shoemaker & Hoard. 2005.

Window Poems. Washington, D.C.: Shoemaker & Hoard, 2007.

Sabbaths 2006. Monterey, Kentucky: Larkspur, 2008.

The Mad Farmer Poems. Berkeley: Counterpoint, 2008.

Leavings. Berkeley: Counterpoint, 2010.

Farming: A Hand Book. Berkeley: Counterpoint, 2011.

New Collected Poems. Berkeley: Counterpoint, 2012.

This Day: Sabbath Poems Collected and New 1979-2013. Berkeley: Counterpoint, 2013.

Terrapin.Berkeley: Counterpoint, 2014.

A Small Porch.Berkeley: Counterpoint, 2016.

We hope to see you soon at the Carnegie Center, home to writers, lifelong learners, & the Kentucky Writers Hall of Fame.

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