Wednesday, June 22, 2011
"Trees" by Joyce Kilmer
I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.
A tree whose hungry mouth is pressed
Against the earth's sweet flowing breast;
A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;
A tree that may in summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;
Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.
Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.
The author of this wonderful poem was born Alfred Joyce Kilmer on December 6, 1886 in New Brunswick, New Jersey, and passed away during the fighting in the Second Battle of the Marne on July 30, 1918. He was a member of New York's famed "Fighting 69th". Known as an American journalist, poet, critic, and editor, he had already made his mark upon the world when he died at age 31.
Though he is mostly remembered for the above poem "Trees", which he wrote in 1913, he was a most prolific writer, and appears frequently in anthologies of American poetry. Although most critics consider his work too simple, I have always found his words to be direct and compact. I find his style akin to Haiku poetry, where less often means more. He was the workingman's Wordsworth, easily understood by all.
I grew up just a few short blocks from Sgt. Joyce Kilmer Square on Kings Highway and East 12th Street in Brooklyn, New York. There used to be an Armed Forces Recruiting Station located there. Perhaps that is why I have always held his works in such high regard.