By way of explanation

The title of this blog is a reference to a standing family joke made by my two brothers. As a teen, I fancied myself to be a poet, and I was prone to gushing about the beauty of the woodland or the perfect purity of the new rose. In 9th grade, I pretentiously composed a collection of poems called “The Winter Wanderer”–an odd choice for an inhabitant of South Arkansas, where we rarely got more than a sprinkling of snow during the winter.

At any rate, my brothers began to say that I was so sappy I could be a tree.  Somehow, this tagline endured. Ironically—and perhaps sadly–I no longer fancy myself to be a poet or even much of a writer. The higher I climbed in academic circles, the lower my self-confidence became. But I do still like trees–in fact, I’d much rather go on a hike in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains near my home than read a poem. Fact. Two summers ago, I was fortunate enough to visit the Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest, which is named in honor of the writer and poet who died tragically in World War I but left us his famous ode to the many-branched, leafed creations that add so much grace to the landscape (and help us with our breathing). Here is Kilmer‘s famous poem:


by Joyce Kilmer

My oldest son contemplates the tulip poplars at Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest.

My oldest son contemplates the tulip poplars at Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest.

I think that I shall never see

A poem lovely as a tree;

A tree whose hungry mouth is prest

Against the sweet earth’s 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.


9 thoughts on “By way of explanation

  1. Pingback: “I Go to Extremes”: Stream-of-Consciousness Saturday | What oft was thought

  2. Pingback: When Trees Are Not Our Friends | sappy as a tree: celebrating beauty in creation

  3. My mother was a poet and growing up under her shadow did not encourage me to experiment much with the art. I loved hers, but could not meet her standards. I did enjoy those professors at WTSU who analyzed poems, sonnets, etc. Some analyzed them to death while others motivated many of my classmates to actually publish. Unfortunately I was to one.

    I don’t often share personal stories on my blogs because of he same reasons you express–just timidity maybe. But this one I shared recently on another blog I have had a while.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Hey! There’s no harm in enjoying good poetry, but of course writing it is quite another thing. Give it a try! ❤

    I am the daughter of a poet, but living under my mother's shadow discouraged my own growth in that direction. I remember all those great English classes where we analyzed poetry to death and where I occasionally got a professor who really felt like motivating his students to write, but work and family took my initiative away.

    I don't often share private feelings on my blogs, but I dared to share this:

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sorry, Beth: I just discovered that–for whatever reason–your comment had gone to spam. This seems especially strange, since I had approved your other comments. Honestly, I don’t think I’ve written a poem since Valentine’s Day in 1991, when my husband and I were newlyweds. (By the next Valentine’s Day, we had a child, and writing a sonnet didn’t even cross my mind.) Poetry needs time–not just for writing but for reflection.


  5. Oops! I wasn’t actually aware that anyone would read this post. So, are blogs essentially public? That might explain why I’ve avoided them to this point in my life. Of course, if churning out a blog post every day would motivate my daughter to continue her excellent blogging, then I would do it, no wonder how myopic my posts became. Maybe I would even start writing poetry again?


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