Gary Snyder (L) and Wendell Berry

For more than four decades, two American literary icons — author Wendell Berry and Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Gary Snyder — corresponded with each other on topics ranging from art to the environment to their personal lives. Many of those letters have been collected in a new volume “Distant Neighbors: The Selected Letters of Wendell Berry and Gary Snyder,” published by Berkeley’s Counterpoint Press. Snyder and Berry join us to talk about their long-distance writerly relationship.

Wendell Berry, writer, critic, farmer and co-author of "Distant Neighbors"
Gary Snyder, Pulitzer Prize-winning poet, professor emeritus at UC Davis and co-author of "Distant Neighbors"

  • Razib_Taif1

    I remember attending a poetry reading by Gary Snyder at the Living Batch bookstore in Albuquerque NM in the early 1990’s. His poem ‘Oil’ still stands out in my mind as a trenchant observation that capitalism and industrialism are ideologies with religious-like aspects. I find the poem’s images of steel plates and long injections of pure oil’ returning to mind again and again as I’ve watched the slow encroachment of development throughout northern California.

  • Rachel

    Thank you for this show! I am a poet and a I have had a long time pen pal relationship with another friend and poet who lives across the country. We share much fellowship and conversation through our letters, particularly the opportunity to bring difficult topics out of the silence. I want to affirm the power of letter writing in our lives during times that do not readily support such slowness and commitment (in comparison to say a twitter-type conversation). Blessings to Garyand Wendell!

  • aestewart

    Just out of curiousity; do either Wendell or Gary have anything to say about William Everson? anthony stewart, north columbia

  • ES Trader

    Im appalled and perplexed at the attitude of these two writers regarding animal rights whether it is raised or hunted. Raising and getting the confidence of an animal then slaughtering it is simple betrayal.

    Yes we all have to eat but not necessarily by taking the life of a creature that means no hostility to people.

    I read writer’s that I can learn from, I see nothing to learn from these guests and suggest that they listen to Carl Sagan’s thoughts on the small blue dot.

    • Chris OConnell

      I am not familiar with Gary Snyder but Wendell Berry is a man of great wisdom, and goodness. Perhaps that did not come through today. And his true attitude toward animals definitely didn’t come through, either. For example, check out this page of Berry quotes, including this:
      ““I dislike the thought that some animal has been made miserable to feed
      me. If I am going to eat meat, I want it to be from an animal that has lived a pleasant, uncrowded life outdoors, on bountiful pasture, with good water nearby and trees for shade.”

      • ES Trader

        Thanks for that and I am not crusading for vegetarian/veganism but my belief is that to kill a healthy animal that simply wants to survive is self-righteous and immoral. It’s everyone’s decision to make but I expect/hope men with extensive miles of travel down the road of knowledge would reach an understanding of his place in the universe and respect for all his fellow travelers

        I advocate listening to Carl Sagan’s thoughts on the “pale blue dot”. or listen to John Lennon’s “Imagine”, from tome to time.

        We are only temporary residents and the world was not created for us to exploit.

        I was unfamiliar with both gentlemen but it reminded me of the Wizard of Oz when Toto pulls away the curtain.

  • victoria s.

    Sounds like Wendell knows the Bible very well… curious if he has a favorite biblical verse?

  • Soo Hyun Han

    I am enjoying the train of conversation around neighbourliness. As a lifelong resident of the Bay Area, it seems impossible to talk about these issues without also addressing differences in race, class, etc., as well as cultural influences. Referring to the earlier comment made about courtesy and Japan, although I did not appreciate the insinuation that the Japanese may be more courteous out of ritual rather than out of human courtesy, I do think it is much easier to exhibit neighbourliness when people are more or less homogeneous. One of the challenges of getting along for folks, particularly in urban areas, is reconciling many of our differences. These differences are both what make life rich, as well as make it more difficult.

  • Just wanted to make a little correction – Thoreau’s civil disobedience was in regards to the U.S. war on Mexico in the 1840s, not the Spanish-American War (1890s), as Krasny said. The conversation was great; I admire these two writers very much, especially the tremendous contribution Berry has made over decades to the neighborliness of farmers and environmentalists. Thank you, Forum!

  • Beth

    I missed this morning’s Forum live, as I was reading the Distant Neighbors book, not knowing of the KQED event. Now I’ve listened to the recording. Though the opportunity to communicate during the discussion may have passed, I feel so delighted I just want to express exuberant gratitude to these two magnificent men. While both were heros, honorary household members in a daily way, through my formative years grappling with how to live appropriately in this world, somehow I missed that they were also in personal conversation with each other. Thank you both for the shining example of your lives. Looking forward to being with you in Santa Rosa tomorrow!

  • Dennis Dougherty

    Loved hearing Wendell Berry’s thoughts… yet the topic of eating animals was treated superficially. I’m sure he could have said more and he did somewhat. I think it would interesting to interview Richard Oppenlander about the land used to raise and feed factory farmed animals and how this is destroying the planet. I’m providing a link to his book.

    • ES Trader

      Its disappointing when the Wizard of Oz is revealed to be simply an old man

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