Attention is a fitting place to begin a study of sustainable cultural forms because these forms depend, first of all, on members who are attentive to perceive and participate in the ongoing patterns of their places. Berry’s poetry, though, reveals that attention can be a strange thing; as he attends to his place, he finds himself attended to. Our digitally networked culture undermines these reciprocal dynamics of sustaining attention. Although the health of our communities depends on attention, we often fall back on the easier habits of distraction and surveillance. Our web of screens surrounds us with mirrors that reflect back to us our own desires and preferences, in the process cutting us off from the complex realities of our places. Berry’s poems, in contrast, model forms of attention that remind readers they are not the organizing subjects of the world. They portray his place and its members as what the philosopher Jean-Luc Marion calls “saturated phenomena,” beings who exist beyond his capacity to see, and so there is always more to which he is obligated to bear witness.
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