“I go by a field where once / I cultivated a few poor crops. / It is now covered with young trees, / for the forest that belongs here / has come back and reclaimed its own. / And I think of all the effort / I have wasted and all the time, / and of how much joy I took / in that failed work and how much / it taught me. For in so failing / I learned something of my place, / something of myself, and now / I welcome back the trees.”
Poet, novelist, and essayist Wendell Berry visited Brown College at the University of Virginia (an undergraduate residential college) in 2009. I asked my class of letterpress students if they would handset one of his poems to commemorate his visit. Mr. Berry was happy to provide a poem from a forthcoming book, Leavings, to be published by Counterpoint Press. The students used Kennerley and Caslon from our rather worn out collection of type at the Virginia Arts of the Book Center and we printed the broadside on our old reliable Vandercook Proof Press. I prepared a woodcut inspired by an old hay rake and a young paulownia tree in an Albemarle County field near my home. The broadside was very popular and sold out immediately. It was the first in a series of pieces I would work on with my class, The Printed Word Endures, at the University of Virginia.