Can or can’t see the word for the trees …

“Trees” (1913)

I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.

A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
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.

Trees” is a lyric poem by American poet Joyce Kilmer.

Kilmer is most remembered for his poem “Trees”, which has been the subject of frequent parodies and references in popular culture. Kilmer’s work is often disparaged by critics and dismissed by scholars as being too simple and overly sentimental, and that his style was far too traditional and even archaic.

Can or can’t see the wood for the trees
My photo

But how is one to avoid sentimentality in nature writing? And is it important to avoid it?

About Angels and About Trees

Where do angels
fly in the firmament,

and how many can dance 
on the head of a pin?

Well, I don’t care 
about that pin dance,

what I know is that 
they rest, sometimes,

in the tops of the trees

and you can see them, 
or almost see them,

or, anyway, think: what a 
wonderful idea.

I have lost as you and 
others have possibly lost a

beloved one, 
and wonder, where are they now?

The trees, anyway, are 
miraculous, full of

angels (ideas); even 
empty they are a

good place to look, to put 
the heart at rest—all those

leaves breathing the air, so

peaceful and diligent, and certainly 
ready to be

the resting place of 
strange, winged creatures

that we, in this world, have loved.

Copyright @2009 by Mary Oliver. From Evidence: Poems, Beacon Press.

3 Comments Add yours

  1. Gunta says:

    A great meditation on the delight of trees!

  2. Rio says:

    How can one talk about trees without being sentimental? They take a thoughtful moment in what is our entire lifetime.

    Archaic like every representation of progeny and ascendance ever drawn? And even if we cut down every one a tree would still be the map of our own nervous system.

    Or maybe some girl should have said, “Hey Buddha, that’s some clique!”

  3. bluebrightly says:

    I don’t know, it seems important to avoid too much sentimentality, because it can be so hard to get past it. For me, reading the Oliver poem was a richer experience. Some wall goes up when I read those rhyming stanzas, the references to God…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.