Some years ago when others were dropping out, Berry, a university poet, dropped sedulously back -- not just to nature but to the land and its concomitant values. A hundred years earlier he would have spoken for most of the nation, but now there is something slightly radical in his espousals of agrarian independence, community, marriage, responsibility -- a radical conservatism like the one Mailer proclaims but does not live. There's also a touch of melancholy -- he is a solitary populist waging a lost cause -- and there's a quite original discernment behind his genre guise of ""the mad farmer."" He's not just disinterring old conventions but trying to expose what he believes to be the root of a natural order. The idea is discussed at length in his essays, but it is palpably persuasive in his poems, with their glowing privacy and orderliness, their careful husbanding of images that matter in themselves. Although he is tending toward a sparer, more essential style here (some of the strongest poems are no more than five or six lines, and the regionalism and rural humor have been virtually abandoned) he is still a beautiful, accessible poet, as his maverick conscience would require.