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This article is taken from PN Review 136, Volume 27 Number 2, November - December 2000.

Reading Kathleen Raine Wendell Berry

I have been Kathleen Raine's reader and her student for somewhat longer than twenty years. For almost that long I have been her friend. Her writings on Blake, Yeats, and other poets, her own poetry, and her autobiographical writings have been profoundly instructive and sustaining to me. Her magazines, Temenos and Temenos Academy Review, have been for me a sort of school. Many things that I am glad to know I know because of her. I admire her because, in an age of fashionable pettiness and distraction, she has stood for beautiful, lofty, unchanging things, which she has taught and defended with passionate, exacting eloquence.

In the summer of 1989, when she last visited the United States, she came to stay a few days with my wife Tanya and me. Our place here in the Kentucky River Valley is only a few miles from the Ohio River which was mythical to Blake - 'I was born a slave, but I go to be free' - and I remember driving Kathleen down our valley to the confluence to show her the Ohio.

But what has remained clearest in my memory is this. One evening after supper Tanya and I were sitting on the front porch with Kathleen. We were talking, watching the twilight darken over the river. Our granddaughters, Katie and Virginia, who were small girls then, were playing in the yard. As the last of the daylight went away, the fireflies began to rise up, ...


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