VIEWSrnThe Country Writerrnby Wendell BerryrnIam as grateful for this award as I am surprised b- it, and 1rneertainly did not see it coming. Obviously, it eannot be eas’rnto feel worthy of an award bearing the name of T.S. P’liot, andrnso probably I ought to sa that I am grateful, but unconvinced.rnThe etiquette attendant upon these occasions suggests thatrnan award is a culmination, a recognition of work done. Andrnthat is true, of course, but to the awardce the matter is necessarilyrnmore complex. My wish today is to speak as steadfastly asrnI can from the point of ‘icw of the awardce. First, as 1 have alrcad}’rnimplied, the awardee had better allow for the possibilit’rnthat he is being honored bc}ond his merit. He will recall thatrnerror in such a matter would not be vithout precedent. Thernawardee must next contend with the implications of the notionrnthat he has “won” the award. The indispensable correctionrncomes from William Blake: “I cannot think that Real Poetsrnhave any competition.” And that can be taken in two wavs:rneither one is a Real Poet and does not feel competitive, or onernwishes to be a Real Poet and therefore had t^etter tr’ not to feelrncompetitive. Either wa-, the awardee will remember that howeverrnsolitary he may be in his work, his art is communal. Thernwork of one writer is made possible by the work of fellow writers,rnpast and present, and by the work of many others who arernnot or were not writers.rnThat thought leads the awardee to an embarrassing questionrn—embarrassing because he must ask it, is even fascinatedrnby it, but cannot answer it: Putting aside inheritance, influence,rninspiration, and many years of instruction, criticism, adiec,rnhelp, and comfort from friends and loved ones, who remains tornreecie the award?rnFinally, the awardee must look with some uneasiness on thernfact, inescapable for the awarders, that the award is a recognitionrnof work done. He will be aware of the very lively distinctionrnWendell Berry was the J 994 recipient of the Ingersoll Foundation’srnT.S. Ehot Award for Creative Writirig, for which this wasrnhis acceptance speech.rnbetween “going to one’s reward” and receiving an award. Hernmust see the award as a sign of expectation, something still tornmeasure u]5 to—as he must see work done as e’idenee of therncapacity to do work. Where he stands is in his ongoing life, arndifficult place, for he knows (b the time he is m age he eannotrnhelp knowing) that he cannot live in what he has done. Herncan live onlv in what he is doing, and with satisfaction only ifrnwhat he is doing binds him to an order of meaning, significantrnto others as to himself, not in his work but in the world. Hernstands, that is (and here the awardee rejoins the awarders), inrnneed of hope.rnThough I am in no position to say how ‘alidly, I believe thatrnmy work has been in large part an effort to sustain hope. It mavrnbe that this is merch the natural result of the perspective that Irnhave necessarily written from: the perspective of a country personrnattached to a rural community and a rural landscape. Thatrnis to say that I ha’e had no subject not in need of defense—inrnneed of far more defense, in fact, than I and niv predecessorsrnand allies have been able to provide. Times when the politicalrnand business leaders of the country have been celebrating thernsuccess of the economy have looked to me like times of catastrophe,rnfor that success has depended upon, has virtually required,rnthe plundering of rural neighborhoods such as my own.rnThis state of things confronts the country writer with a ratherrnbald choice between acceding to the cynicism and contemptrnwith which countr’ people and country places are now gencral-rn1′ regarded or taking up their defense. To assume the defensivernin a (so far) losing cause is to involve oneself in a long confrontationrnwith despair, and, if one is to survive, in a continuousrnsurc’ of the ground of hope. I can say that my work has givenrnme some hope, sometimes—and I know that those qualificationsrnare dire. They mean simply that nobody can be thernsource of his or her own hope. We must look elsewhere.rnI was distressed to read in a recent issue of the New Yorkerrnthat some of the oungcr Russian writers arc now repudiatingrntheir great writers of opposition and persistent hope such as Tol-rn14/CHRONICLESrnrnrn