All Posts for February 2018

Joyce Kilmer, Poet of “Trees”

Wednesday, February 28th, 2018

First, thanks to my friend Sylvia, who sent me the comment on the postings for trees, noting this is the 100th anniversary of Joyce Kilmer’s death in a WWI battle in July 1918. He was only 32.

Second, this is a follow-up to my two other postings on trees. Here are the links in case you missed them:

Third,  here is the link Sylvia sent later to my email about Kilmer. All the information in this posting, including the poem: is from this website,

Note: I feel a strong affinity to Joyce Kilmer because he was born in New
Brunswick, NJ.  and I was born not far from there in what is now Hamilton, NJ.
I also attended Douglass College, a division of Rutgers, a short distance across town from Rutgers, and I actually visited the Joyce Kilmer Tree, which is no longer living. (See my P.S. below)

According to the Poetry Foundation article, Joyce Kilmer’s poetry “celebrated the common beauty of the natural world as well as his religious faith.” Dying in a WWI battle, he was awarded the Croix de Guerre (War Cross) for his bravery, There is also a National Forest in North Carolina named after Kilmer as well as other tributes of him to be found on the Internet.

As noted above, he graduated from Rutgers University in New Brunswick, NJ and also Columbia University in New York. He was the literary editor for a religious newspaper called The Churchman, and later became a staff member of the New York Times. (He was considered the leading Catholic American poet of his generation.)

Even though he was not required to join the military because he was a family man, he did enlist in 1917, and after a request, he transferred to the infantry and then was deployed to Europe. He quickly rose in rank  and served as an intelligence officer. He collected data and information from the enemy front line. He was killed by a sniper’s bullet in the battle of Ourcq.

Kilmer wrote Trees in 1914. Here is what the Poetry Foundation notes about this poem:

“His strong religious faith and dedication to the natural beauty of the world influences much of Kilmer’s work. “Trees” is unique for its personification of the tree in the poem, and became most popular after his death—in the 1940s and 1950s—even being put to music.”

Here is the poem from the website:



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.


P.S. I Googled for a picture of the actual Joyce Kilmer tree and in, and here is an excerpt from an article entitled:
By HERBERT MITGANG Published: December 5, 1986
(The “e” in Rutgers is omitted, either on purpose or by accident. es)

“To commemorate the centennial of the writer whose name is forever associated with one 12-line verse, ”Trees,” a 10-foot white oak (Quercus alba) was planted yesterday on the Rutgers University campus by the Shade Tree Bureau of the New Brunswick Parks Department.

It replaces a 200-year-old white oak that had a 120-foot limb spread and stood near the Rutgers Labor Education Center, south of Douglass College. The huge tree that the poet wrote ‘only God can make’ died of old age and was removed by a team of five tree surgeons a quarter of a century ago.”

After a lengthy search for the tree that inspired Kilmer’s Poem, I found this photo and note on eBay. There are many trees on many sites, but this is the only one I found that is supposedly the original tree.

1961 Press Photo New Brunswick, NJ: giant oak that inspired Kilmer poem “Trees”

African American History Month (Part Two)

Sunday, February 25th, 2018

NOTE: This is a Part Two of the posting on African-American women in history, using cards from the Library of Congress entitles, Women Who Dare.
Click on this link for Part One:

(Direct quotes are from the cards unless otherwise noted.)

5. Rosa Parks (1913-2005): Rosa Parks is probably the best known 20th century African-American women in this list of eight. She is the woman from Montgomery, Alabama, who refused to move from the “white” section of the bus to the back of the bus. The United States Congress dubbed her “the first lady of civil rights” and “the mother of the freedom movement” (from Wikipedia). Her arrest following the bus incident on Dec. 1, 1955, led to a mass boycott of the city’s buses  and brought Martin Luther King, Jr. and the civil rights movement to national prominence.  “Though indeed a woman of quiet dignity, Parks was also a longtime mover in the Montgomery NAACP and a well-trained, disciplined activist, attuned in every aspect to what she was setting into motion.”


6. Wilma Rudolph (1940-1994): Despite of, or perhaps because of, her childhood polio, Wilma Rudolph moved from “barely being able to walk to become the first female triple Olympic gold medalist in track and field.” Her story of overcoming her physical disability to become an Olympic star is amazing. After a teaching career and serving in several capacities in order to promote wider opportunities for black youth, such as running and the development if female athletes, she established the Wilma Rudolph Foundation, dedicated to training young athletes.


7. Edith Spurlock Sampson (1901-1979): Hailing from Philadelphia, as a child she was determined to get an education and work to relieve in some way the plight of the urban poor around her. “Pursuing a career in law, she became the first black female judge in American. Later, she served as an alternative delegate to the United Nations. As the Library of Congress Knowledge Cards note: (She was)….” A natural in the courtroom (and claimed) “To ‘speak from the heart and let the law take care of itself.'” (Note/Discrepancies: The Internet places Pittsburgh as her home town, but the cards note Philadelphia. Also, some of these entries place her birthdate as 1891.)


I chose this is a photo of Edith because the person she is talking to looks like Eleanor Roosevelt.




8. Harriet Tubman (1820-1913) – While Rosa Parks is probably the most recognizable name of African-American women from the 20th century, I think Harriet Tubman is the best known African-American woman born in the 19th century because of her outstanding role on the Underground Railroad. (A network of abolitionists who helped Blacks escape the South to freedom in the North.) Harriet Tubman had been a fugitive slave herself, but did not stop with her own freedom. She made 19 return trips to rescue approximately 300 slaves from bondage. “During the Civil War she served as a nurse, spy, and scout for groups of readers penetrating Confederate lines.” She continued her remarkable work despite blackouts resulting from being struck on the head with a two-pound weight administered by an overseer when she was a slave. Thus, in her later years, Harriet Tubman “worked for black education and social betterment, woman suffrage, and other causes.”




My personal comments: 

I learned a great deal from my research using the Linrary of Congress cards and the Internet, and I would add the three women from the movie Hidden Figures, as well as Lorraine Hansberry, who wrote Raisin in the Sun, which I saw on Broadway with some outstanding African-American actors. This was in the 1970s,  so I don’t have their names available. But I am sure that Viola Davis and Olivia Spencer would be wonderful in a current version.

From, this quoted summary with women’s name in bold as my editing:

“Adapted from Margot Lee Shetterly’s book Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race, the film focuses on three real-life African-American female pioneers: Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson, who were part of NASA’s team of human “computers.” This was a group made up of mostly women who calculated by hand the complex equations that allowed space heroes like Neil Armstrong, Alan Shepard, and Glenn to travel safely to space. Through sheer tenacity, force of will, and intellect, they ensured their stamp on American history—even if their story has remained obscured from public view until now.”


Just as there is not enough “press” for women’s accomplishments in America, there is even less press about African-American women. In the list above, I really only recognized Harriet Tubman, Josephine Baker, Wilma Rudolph and Rosa Parks. Even then, I knew very little about their lives, so this was also a history lesson for me! Thus, I have chosen to make this month African-American Women’s History Month!

Also, special thanks to my classmate and friend Flora Jane for gifting the Libraryopf Congress cards to me.