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Human Relations

Kentucky author Berry to speak
in Madison at book reading event

He will appear in March at the library

By Don Ward
Editor

(January 2012) – Kentucky’s award-winning poet and author Wendell Berry rarely gives interviews and does not like public speaking. In fact, at age 77 it is hard to get him off his 125-acre Port Royal, Ky., farm in rural Henry County. But Berry has agreed to take part in a special event coming up March 31 in Madison, Ind.
At the request of event organizer Bob Canida, Berry will discuss his book, ‘Hannah Coulter,” during the “One Book, One Community” lecture series at the Madison-Jefferson County Public Library, 420 W. Main St., Madison. The event is sponsored by the City of Madison Human Relations Commission in conjunction with the library.
A Henry County native and graduate and retired writing professor of the University of Kentucky, Berry is a nationally known writer and man of letters. He has written numerous poems, short stories, essays and more than 40 fiction and nonfiction books.
He was a friend of the late Trimble County, Ky., writer and artist, Harlan Hubbard, and even wrote a book about Hubbard titled, “Harlan Hubbard: Life and Work” (1990). It was published by the University Press of Kentucky.
Berry was the keynote speaker several years ago at a weekend event dedicated to Hubbard and held at Hanover College.
Last March, Berry traveled to Washington, D.C., to receive The National Humanities Medal, presented to him by President Barack Obama. Other 2010 recipients of the medal were authors Harper Lee and Joyce Carol Oates, singer James Taylor and actress Meryl Streep.

Berry

Berry

Berry has won numerous other awards for both his writing and activism on environmental and agricultural issues.
Berry’s book, “Hannah Coulter,” will be the topic of his discussion in March. Attendees are urged to read the book before the event. The book offers realistic depictions of characters and explores the relationships between individuals, between the individual and the community, and between the individual and place. The story, set in fictional Port William, offers a palpable sense of place and reverence for the land – both common themes in much of Berry’s writings.
“Hannah Coulter” is a tale told in the voice of an old woman. Coulter reflects on her life. Twice widowed, she has experienced much loss, yet has never bowed her head in defeat. She recalls her childhood, young love and loss, and raising her children. She contemplates the deterioration of community – the way things were, are and might have been. Coulter derives her fundamental strength from the community – the “membership” of Port William.
The idea for the “One Book, One Community” concept was started through the Seattle Public Library to allow people in a community to have a common point to share, discuss and interact. Now there are hundreds of communities across the nation that have similar programs. Copies of “Hannah Coulter” will be available for loan at the library and also available for sale at Village Lights Bookstore, 110 E. Main St., in Madison.
“Hopefully, many people will read the book in the next few months and then attend the event,” said Canida, a Madison dentist. “Perhaps some of the book clubs in town will choose it for their discussions also.”
Berry is scheduled to speak at 2 p.m. on that Saturday, March 31 and lead a discussion about the book on the theme of “community and place.”
The Human Relations Commission is a city commission established primarily to hear complaints of discrimination in the community. The commission also seeks to promote community by sharing interactive themes and also offering forums related to local human relations topics. In addition to Canida, the commission’s other members include Sue Livers, Bob Pimlott, Claude Routon, Betty Todd and Shirley Kloepfer.

• For more information about this event or the Human Relations Commission, call Bob Canida at (812) 265-4766.

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