My Friend, Wendell Berry

William J. Harris

My friend, Wendell Berrybought a pocket watchlike this one:                            for 25¢off the back of a truck in San FranciscoHe was real excited and happyabout his shrewd deal.I, a sophisticated midwesterner,with an $80watchlike this one:                                               given to me by my motherwas simply unimpressedand a little amused.You see, Wendell is froma couple of milesbelow the Ohio Riverand I’m from severalmiles above the Ohio Riverin the lap of culture.Well, yesterday, my $80 watchbrokeand Wendell offeredto sell me his watch for 50¢—that would be a 100% profit!So I went tothis discount place, Baz’r,and bought a watchlike this one:                                for $3.66. Obviously a better watchthan Wendell’s.But I ain’t nevertalking to Mr. Wendell Berry again.

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William J. Harris is an emeritus professor of American Literature, African American Literature, Creative Writing and Jazz Studies. He has taught at the University of Kansas, Penn State University, Cornell University and other institutions. He lives and writes in Brooklyn, N.Y. Among his books are The Poetry and Poetics of Amiri Baraka: The Jazz Aesthetic, Hey Fella Would You Mind Holding This Piano a Moment and Crooners. He is the editor of The LeRoi Jones/Amiri Baraka Reader. His work has appeared in numerous journals, including The African American Review, Callaloo, art forum, The Boston Review and POETRY magazine. Adam Bradley discussed his work in “Building a New Canon of Black Literature,” in The New York Times Style Magazine.

February 2023

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Founded in Chicago by Harriet Monroe in 1912, Poetry is the oldest monthly devoted to verse in the English-speaking world. Harriet Monroe’s “Open Door” policy, set forth in Volume I of the magazine, remains the most succinct statement of Poetry’s mission: to print the best poetry written today, in whatever style, genre, or approach.

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