A Clear and Highly Developed Vision of a Better World
A Feature Review of
Distant Neighbors: The Selected Letters Of Wendell Berry and Gary Snyder.
Hardback: Counterpoint, 2014
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Reviewed by Michelle E. Wilbert
In the affectionate introduction to this edifying collection of correspondence between novelist, poet, and cultural critic Wendell Berry and Gary Snyder, the “Poet Laureate of Deep Ecology,” an essayist, activist, and recipient of the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1974 for his book Turtle Island, editor Chad Wriglesworth relays the earliest articulation of the relationship between the two men, found in a short essay sent by Berry to Snyder after his returning home to Kentucky following his first visit to Snyder’s homestead in the San Juan Ridge area of southern California. While offering his observations on their various shared affinities and concerns – land, community, and the sense that “being native to a place” involves examining the questions that would lead to a commitment to arresting the “pattern of imposing human will upon the land” and to living within creaturely limits in conformity to the local ecology – he concluded his reveries by metaphorically extending his hand with the declaration, “We are neighbors—distant neighbors,” and thus began a friendship that has lasted more than 40 years and has been conducted largely through the somewhat lost art of epistolary.