Monday, February 29, 2016

Tom Sterner multimediates


1 comment:

  1. Perhaps the most popular, and well-known, American poem is "Trees" by Joyce Kilmer. It appeared, ironically, in "Poetry: A Magazine of Verse," the magazine that introduced Modern poetry to the American public with early work by Ezra Pound, T. S. Eliot, H.D. [Hilda Doolittle], Wallace Stevens, Robert Frost, Carl Sandburg, and Edna St. Vincent Millay, who took poetry in drastically different directions away from traditional lyric poetry. As a result, Columbia University's literary club, the Philolexian Society, hosts the annual Joyce Kilmer Memorial Bad Poetry Contest, and "Trees" is read at the conclusion every year. Nonetheless, the poem is usually recited at Arbor Day events in April. Many parks are named in the poet's honor, including the Joyce Kilmer-Slickrock Wilderness and Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest tracts within the Nantahala National Forest in North Carolina, and The Joyce Kilmer Tree was planted in New York's Central Park. In his hometown, New Brunswick, New Jersey, the 300-yeat-old "Kilmer Oak" grew at Rutgers University until it was removed in 1963 and was widely believed to be the poem's inspiration; the university keeps its remains in storage, and saplings from it are being grown at the site. The poem has also frequently been set to music, one of which (by Oscar Rasbach) was performed by such stars as Nelson Eddy, Robert Merrill, Perry Como, and Paul Robeson, and Alfalfa sang it in "Arbor Day," one of the "Our Gang" shorts. It was also featured in "Melody Time," Walt Disney's last short-film animated anthology. More recently Henk van der Vliet composed a suite based on "Trees" plus poems by the more reputable figures Christina Rossetti, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Matthew Prior, and Sir John Suckling. Guy Davenport claimed it was "the one poem known by practically everybody," and Mark Forsyth researched Google hits and placed its first two lines as the 26th "most quoted lines of poetry."

    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.

    In the film "Superman II" Lex Luthor discovered a recording crystal made by Superman's father Jor-El, reciting "A typical ode, much loved by the people you will live among." When Luthor yanked it out of the device, his companion protested "Hey wait! I love 'Trees.'" To which he replied, "So does the average Cocker Spaniel."


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