I read Barbara Kingsolver, a book she has written with her family about living off the land, moving to a farm where she and her family plan to eat only what they can carry away from the field for a year. I am shocked by her beautiful language. I hold my breath, reading about drought starved saguaro cactuses, prickly and thin as runway models, amazed at how adroitly she turns her phrases, how easily she sweeps the page with poetry, as if it were nothing, like watching a portrait artist sketch her model, making, with two quick indifferent strokes, a whole person, and then getting on to her real work, her hard work, which is finding the person’s soul. Meanwhile, I am agape. Did you just do that? Did you just flick your wrist and a whole person was suddenly there on the canvas?

For Barbara Kingsolver, the poetry is not the point, the point is the point, and poetry is something she uses to get there. Kingsolver must enjoy the poetry, but she’s busy trying to get her message across, trying to find her meaning, trying to wrestle with her big question: what does it mean to live close to the land, how do we change when we don’t do it?