Reading Wendell Berry’s “Mad Farmer” poems is not much different from reading a few of his essays. Of the 17 pieces, I read four, the most poetic of which may be The Contrariness of the Mad Farmer. In Bill Moyers’ interview with Berry, Moyers expressed that “maybe the mad farmer is getting a little madder, a little more radical.” The theme of “going against men” in Contrariness confirms this idea that Berry is growing more intense in his environmentalism.
The poem begins with a simple, defiant “I am done with apologies.” Berry accepts that his views are often very uncommon and opposite the majority. He says, “if contrariness is my inheritance and destiny, so be it.” He embraces his contrariness. If he is different, then he will be outrageously and unapologetically different. This may be largely due to his religion, which is yet another example of his contrariness. He has relied on luck and “Heaven’s favor” rather than listening to the advice of others. He lives by God despite anything telling him to do otherwise.
His religion is perhaps the most significant part of Contrariness, as Berry makes it seem that he will defy even his religion to prove that he will keep his own ideas. When asked to dance, Berry stands still. When told to pray, Berry laughs. When reminded “[his] Redeemer liveth,” Berry says that God is dead. He will go to the greatest lengths to remain independent. However, at the end of the day, Berry always finds his own way. He will dance, but only when everyone else is still. He will pray, but he will pray in his own way, not when instructed. He knows that God lives, but insists only when told otherwise. He believes that if his contrariness is what people see, then he should embrace it and be the mad farmer many think him to be.