“Good writing consists of trying to use ordinary words to achieve extraordinary results.”
Ordinary words achieving extraordinary results: What better example can there be than Trees by Alfred Joyce Kilmer? Since today is Arbor Day, let’s spend today and this weekend embracing these lovely words:
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.
Joyce Kilmer was a poet, essayist, journalist, and religious thinker. He penned his world-famous poem in February, 1913 in a small house in Mahwah, New Jersey at the age of 27. A few years later, he joined the renowned, largely Irish “Fighting 69th” regiment; he died in France in July, 1918 when he was struck down by a German bullet. He was thirty one. Though he never had the chance to reap the fullness of his talent and voice, his beloved poem continues to speak for him.
Today, Joyce Kilmer is memorialized all across America: There are libraries and schools named after him, and parks and roads. A Camp Kilmer military facility operated until 2009 and it is now the site of US postal facility named after him. Then there is The Joyce Kilmer Memorial Tree in Central Park near Center Drive and 67th Street. But perhaps most fitting of all, there is a 3,800-acre Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest in North Carolina. Dedicated in his memory in 1936, it contains more than 100 species of old-growth trees, many over 400-years old and some more than 100 feet tall. Once threatened with destruction, it is run by the U.S. Forest Service and will remain forever wild.
One poem: A simple collection of fewer than 100 words, artfully arranged — and immortal.
May this inspire us all as we write on.
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