Old 07-16-2014, 12:37 AM   #1
Tzara
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Is this poem bad?

Trees
Joyce Kilmer

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.



Source: Poetry (August 1913).
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Old 07-16-2014, 03:50 AM   #2
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It is to me, but i'm a renowned dumbfuck with no talent or taste.
I don't give a rats ass how poetically correct it is, to me, kilmer is saying nothing, and with no imagination. It's like an excercise.
To me, if i don't feel it~it sucks

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Old 07-16-2014, 04:55 AM   #3
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for me, it feels 'of an era', sing-songy in delivery that can detract from imagery that wouldn't otherwise feel so twee. i like the raised leafy arms, the nest of robins, the living intimately with rain... but i found it took time for me to be able to appreciate them past the form-packaging.

ultimately, i find the poem resides entirely within the first two lines, no expansion required in my mind. but then joyce kilmer's the famous poet and we are but mere scribblers in the dust....

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Old 07-16-2014, 05:19 AM   #4
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Even the brilliant have brain farts.
This is a nothing poem with a couple of good lines to me.
I don't put a lot of stock in fame, lots of famous poets suck in my opinion, too dry and cerebral.
Poetry for me should be either fun/funny, create a great visual or make me feel something. It's usually a combo of the last two that makes it great for me, but a poem that can make me chuckle or smile every time I read it is also great, humor is so very hard to maintain over time.
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Old 07-16-2014, 07:11 AM   #5
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I thought this excerpt from Wikipedia about Kilmer was telling:

"The entire corpus of Kilmer's work was produced between 1909 and 1918 when Romanticism and sentimental lyric poetry fell out of favor and Modernism took root—especially with the influence of the Lost Generation. In the years after Kilmer's death, poetry went in drastically different directions, as is seen especially in the work of T. S. Eliot and Ezra Pound. Kilmer's verse is conservative and traditional, and does not break the formal rules of poetics—he can be considered as one of the last poets of the Romantic era. His style has been criticized for not breaking free of traditional modes of rhyme, meter, and theme, and for being too sentimental to be taken seriously."

I think in every artistic era, reach eventually exceeds grasp, and artists rebel against the status quo, which in its inception may very well have been the avant-garde. I Googled "Poetry Movements of the 20th Century" once, and to the best of my recollection, I found more than two dozen examples. I suspect some would regard Eliot and Pound "antiquated."

In Kilmer's time, poetry was more popular, perhaps because there were fewer vehicles for artistic expression, eg, cinema and television. Within the context of the times, I think more of us would say it's a good poem whereas today, fewer of us, including myself, say it isn't. I feel the same about Yeats by the way. Some of his earlier work, perhaps not surprisingly around the turn of the century, doesn't compare with his later poems.

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Old 07-16-2014, 09:43 AM   #6
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I'm sure there are people who think it's a great poem. To me it sounds greeting-card-like, singsong and rather cliched. The consistent meter and the rhymed couplets are so out of fashion. Otoh it uses them, as well as personification and metaphor, skillfully. It has a strong, perhaps ironic, ending. It is not without craft.

I think GM's comments are illuminating. The poem does kinda have a "Wordsworth" quality to me--sort of the worst of Romanticism imho.

I guess I wouldn't call it a bad poem, just not to my taste.
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Old 07-16-2014, 09:51 AM   #7
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If the words of the poem were purposely made to take on the shape of a tree, I would have vomited.
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Old 07-16-2014, 09:53 AM   #8
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If I found this piece on a poetry forum and was asked to give a critique, I would probably give all the standard answers about doggerel and sentimentality, but knowing this poem and it's context, I can't do that.

A very long time ago, I came across a small book of poetry. The title was Up the Line to Death. It was an anthology of poems written by the soldiers of the US, Britain, Canada, and Australia during WW1. Most were better than the tree poem, if only by a little. All were stark, realistic, and haunting. Most of the poets chosen for the book did not survive the war. Kilmer is not actually in the book, probably because he was an established poet before the war and the tree poem was published in 1913. He was killed on the battlefield in 1918.

Even so, I connect Kilmer and the other war poets.

"Trees" has the misfortune of being simple, short, and available. This makes it ideal for middle school English classes. If it is maligned for perfectly good reasons, the real reason is its familiarity. It's an easy target and an opportunity to finally get back at our seventh grade English teacher for marking up our poem about sunsets.
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Old 07-16-2014, 10:16 AM   #9
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Trees

If Paul Robeson had not sung it the poem would be forgotten.

Without Robeson's voice it is insipid, but let's be charitable and say he wrote a fine lyric.

I tried to put Robeson's recording up but youtube isn't co-operating.
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Old 07-16-2014, 12:01 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tzara View Post
Trees
Joyce Kilmer

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.



Source: Poetry (August 1913).
Surely, points must be awarded for being so easy to parody. Such a nice target.
Music and video might help its sad ass.
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Old 07-16-2014, 02:12 PM   #11
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If the words of the poem were purposely made to take on the shape of a tree, I would have vomited.
Thanks a bunch mag
Now i have that image stuck in my head.
Yesterday, and i assure you, just by chance, i heard a randy travis song. A #1 hit. It had the line~
"he'd sit on the porch and watch the chickens peck,
His teeth were gone but what the heck"
So apparently there's a market for anything.
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Old 07-16-2014, 02:18 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pensivepoet View Post
Thanks a bunch mag
Now i have that image stuck in my head.
Yesterday, and i assure you, just by chance, i heard a randy travis song. A #1 hit. It had the line~
"he'd sit on the porch and watch the chickens peck,
His teeth were gone but what the heck"
So apparently there's a market for anything.
Aww dang it, I like that song. I thought, that he walked, on water. LOL

And now, gotta queue up some Randy...
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Old 07-16-2014, 02:22 PM   #13
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I'm sorry trix, even i watched hee haw when no one was looking, but his teeth were gone so what the heck?
I think having to sing this line over and over is the reason randy fucked his wife's dentist, then ran down the middle of the road drunk and naked
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Old 07-16-2014, 02:26 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pensivepoet View Post
I'm sorry trix, even i watched hee haw when no one was looking, but his teeth were gone so what the heck?
I think having to sing this line over and over is the reason randy fucked his wife's dentist, then ran down the middle of the road drunk and naked
ROFL! Omg, wrong but funny!
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Old 07-16-2014, 02:26 PM   #15
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<<< retches at the thought of Randy Travis singing
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Old 07-16-2014, 02:33 PM   #16
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<<< retches at the thought of Randy Travis singing
Then you'd positively choke when you heard my rendition of his songs, lol
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Old 07-16-2014, 03:15 PM   #17
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ROFL! Omg, wrong but funny!
Ok, it was her hygenist, but i don't know how to spell hygenist and i'm too lazy to look it up.
I'm pretty sure bout the rest.
Don't make me have to use wiki
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Old 07-16-2014, 03:21 PM   #18
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How bout this~randy singing kilmer's poem to banjo, while drunk, naked, and doing his wife's hygenist. Then we'll know if it's truly a good poem.
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Old 07-16-2014, 03:46 PM   #19
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Vomit bag stuff but then, I've said that about some poems that are supposed to be classics of western culture.
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Old 07-16-2014, 03:50 PM   #20
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How bout this~randy singing kilmer's poem to banjo, while drunk, naked, and doing his wife's hygenist. Then we'll know if it's truly a good poem.
needs bass, randy with Primus backing him up. will lend a hole differ'nt meaning to...
some of the lines.
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Old 07-16-2014, 03:53 PM   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by twelveoone View Post
needs bass, randy with Primus backing him up. will lend a hole differ'nt meaning to...
some of the lines.
That I'd pay to hear!

Wonder if it would be as good/bad as Johnny's American Recordings.


https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=qpYW3qng78E
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Old 07-16-2014, 03:55 PM   #22
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needs bass, randy with Primus backing him up. will lend a hole differ'nt meaning to...
some of the lines.
I was thinking tuba, for sort of a God fart at the end
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Old 07-16-2014, 04:00 PM   #23
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I was thinking tuba, for sort of a God fart at the end
a God fart

that has made this whole thread worthwhile. sorry Tzara, but it's priceless!
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Old 07-16-2014, 04:19 PM   #24
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It's an appalling piece of trite sentimentalism, of course. If the Great War did nothing else good, it at least swept away the last decayed vestiges of that Victorian, syrupy, All Things Bright and Beautiful worldview. Any heap of broken images is better than that unbroken gush of vapidity. And to compare it with Wordsworth does the old sheep of the Lake District a great disservice. If poetry is emotion recollected in tranquility, what emotion is this poem? Self-satisfaction? Smugness?

Oh, and 'Who intimately lives with rain'????? What on earth does that mean? Unless the tree is fucking raindrops, which I doubt was the poem's intention.

It's not even bad enough to be worth reading. Now McGonagall is, of course, a bad poet supreme, but at least his doggerel is funny.

An Address to the New Tay Bridge - the whole poem is worth reading, but I can't help extracting these particular gems of scansion and vision:

"And I hope the designers, Messrs Barlow and Arrol, will prosper for many a day
For erecting thee across the beautiful Tay."

"And I hope thousands of people will come from far away,
Both high and low without delay,
From the North, South, East and West,
Because as a railway bridge thou art the best;"

"The New Yorkers boast about their Brooklyn Bridge,
But in comparison to thee it seems like a midge,
...
Besides the railway carriages are pulled across by a rope,
Therefore Brooklyn Bridge cannot with thee cope;"

If you're going to do something bad, in short, you might as well make it really appalling. No point in half-measures.
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Old 07-16-2014, 06:32 PM   #25
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Thank you all for your thoughts.

I'm not quite sure what I think about it. Certainly it's a simple poem--the meter is very strong and very regular (I think there's only one trochee substitution in the whole poem) and the language is very basic (of the 80 words in the poem, 11 are disyllabic and only one is trisyllabic). That simplicity is part of the reason it's easy to parody (also that it, or at least the first couplet, is so well-known), but I don't know that I think the simplicity alone makes it bad. It actually fits the theme of the poem, which is artless simplicity and an almost childlike religious faith.

The imagery seems trite, but that could just be due to the poem's popularity. I remember the first time I saw High Noon I thought it horribly clichéd, but it was sufficiently novel at the time that Howard Hawks made Rio Bravo as a kind of refutation of the idea behind High Noon. So the imagery may be why we (readers in the 21st century) find it not compelling, but that doesn't mean that the poem is bad (meaning badly written or constructed).

Is it that the theme is simple? Is the theme simple?

I don't know.

Anyway, thanks for your ideas.
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