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Joyce Kilmer (1886 ~ 1918) ~ Author of Trees and Other Poems

Portrait of Joyce Kilmer © 2000 Miriam A. Kilmer
color prints now available

Print of "Trees" © 2003 Miriam A. Kilmer
Fine art prints (Limited Edition, inexpensive Open Edition, and note cards); tee shirts
Joyce Kilmer and World War One: CBS Sunday Morning

       On September 7, 2014, CBS Sunday Morning aired some snippets of the Kilmer interview they filmed recently: my sister Noelie Angevine, my cousin Robert C. Kilmer and I took part. The primary subject was the American experience of World War I. Possibly due to time constraints, the poem "In Flanders Fields"- is mentioned without credit. This justly famous, moving poem was written by Canadian poet and physician Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae.
       Despite the flaws and limitations, I think the segment is well worth watching, and I'm glad I was able to participate. I regret that I can't show it to you without the commercial.

Joyce Kilmer and "Trees" by Miriam A. Kilmer
       Joyce Kilmer is best known for his poem "Trees." Legends have grown up all over the country around certain trees that are reputed to be the tree that inspired the poem; people often write to me asking for verification of their local version. According to my Dad, Joyce Kilmer's eldest son, Joyce was writing about trees in general, not about any particular tree. Joyce was living in Mahwah, New Jersey, at the time he wrote the poem (February 2, 1913). "It was in an upstairs bedroom... which served as Mother's and Dad's bedroom and also as Dad's office.... The window looked out down a hill, on our well-wooded lawn ~ trees of many kinds, from mature trees to thin saplings: oaks, maples, black and white birches, and I don't know what else." ~ Memories of my Father, Joyce Kilmer; Kenton Kilmer, 1993. I don't actively discourage the legends (such as Notre Dame's legend, because they encourage environmental passion, but I also value accuracy, so I've provided the facts as I know them for those who seek.
       It is dangerous to argue with the judgment of the people, but I can't help agreeing with Aline Kilmer, his widow, and with their eldest son (my father, Kenton Kilmer), both of whom expressed a preference for some of his lesser-known works such as "Delicatessen" and "A Blue Valentine." My own favorite tends to vary each time I re-read his work, but for several years now "The Snowman in the Yard" has been a steady favorite. Though some call him a "great poet," I believe it is fair to say that his work showed promise; that had he not been struck down in his prime, his talent would most likely have developed in later years into something approaching greatness. I really love his letters and his essays. It is as an editor that his most important contributions to poetry were made; my father particularly credited him with the literary recognition of Gerard Manley Hopkins in the United States.
       Nevertheless, I am thankful for the popularity of "Trees," because its captivating lyrical simplicity drives home this profound message: we humans can never hope to surpass the awesome beauty of nature. This is why I think of my grandfather as an early environmentalist. Countless trees have been planted in his honor, and for that alone he deserves to be remembered. The Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest was dedicated in his honor.

Essay: A Tree Grows, and Grows by Thomas Vinciguerra, published August 16, 2013 in The New York Times
See also Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest ~ Wildflowers
Inspiring essay on Joyce Kilmer's "Trees" by Angela Harris.
The poem "Trees" has been set to music by many people, but the song everyone seems to know is by Oscar Rasbach. Sheet Music and Recordings are readily available.

Help Preserve Nature. One click at a time
1917 Portrait of Joyce Kilmer
Underwood & Underwood ~ Digital Restoration by Miriam A. Kilmer

       For resources on Joyce Kilmer, including his collected works, please visit Rising Dove Bookstore.
       The official National celebration of Earth Day is always April 22. Read about celebrations of Earth Day ~ both reports of those that have passed, and announcements of ongoing and future events. Look up states and cities where you live or visit.
        Join Sierra Club
       Celebrate Earth Day
National Arbor Day

National Arbor Day is celebrated on the last Friday of April. The dates of local celebrations vary. Please check the National Arbor Day website for the date in your state or territory.
Arbor Day Manual: An Aid in Preparing Programs for Arbor Day Exercises; Charles R. Skinner.   Amazon.com
50 Simple Things Kids Can Do To Save The Earth; Andrews and McMeel.  
50 Simple Things Kids Can Do To Save The Earth
       In addition to your outdoor activities, which I hope will include planting a tree, I recommend watching Charles Schultz's It's Arbor Day, Charlie Brown   Animated VHS   Paramount Home Video   ***
       No, the poem
"Trees" is not in it.
       Even funnier is "Arbor Day" from Volume 10 of Republic Pictures Home Video series "The Little Rascals." Carl "Alfalfa" Switzer makes a valiant attempt to stretch his vocal chords to the wide range required for Oscar Rasbach's musical setting of "Trees." Read about the film at IMDB.
Little Rascals 10-Video Collection has been released again under the Hallmark label. Volume 10 may be purchased from Amazon.com.
       Please do your part for the Environment. Shop for earth-friendly products at Recommended Merchants for the Ecologically Aware.
       The "perfect tree" chosen for the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree for 2004 came from Suffern, an area well known to Joyce Kilmer, and mentioned in his poem "The House with Nobody in It."
       Tree-Planting Ceremony, September, 1955: my cousins Robert and Ann participated in planting a tree in memory of their grandfather Joyce Kilmer during the dedication of the Ford Plant in Mahwah, NJ; they were assisted by Charles N. Feldman, then Mayor of Mahwah, and Henry Ford 2nd. Detail from a Herald-Tribune Photo by Ira Rosenberg.
       The name of Ford is associated primarily with cars, but Henry Ford also invented a tree-planting machine which helped to save thousands of trees all across our nation.
       Write to Ford for a cleaner environment.
       American Forests ~ plant trees to offset your Carbon Footprint.
       Global Footprint Network
       Joyce Kilmer is buried in Oise-Aisne Cemetery, Fere-en-Tardenois, France. There is a picture of the Kilmer Family Cenotaph in Elmwood Cemetery, New Brunswick, New Jersey, USA. Please note that Joyce Kilmer was never buried in the United States. The photo at the bottom of the same page shows Joyce Kilmer's tombstone in Oise-Aisne Cemetery.
       There are photos of another side of the Elmwood Cemetary cenotaph showing the names and dates of both of Joyce Kilmer's parents, and a photo of Frederick Barnett Kilmer's gravestone.
       Joyce & Aline Kilmer
       Literary Sites and Search Resources
       Books by and about Joyce Kilmer and Aline Murray Kilmer at Rising Dove Bookstore
       The 75th Anniversary Celebration and Rededication of the Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest
Saturday, July 30, 2011
Information from the Forest Service and others:

       On July 30, 2011, the USDA Forest Service and partners gathered for a special ceremony on the Nantahala National Forest to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest. This celebration took place at Rattler Ford Campground, near Robbinsville. Events took place throughout the day, including 5K and 10K races beginning at 8:30, outdoor exhibits by various conservation groups beginning at 10 a.m., and a rededication ceremony at 1 p.m. with participation by the VFW, Joyce Kilmer's descendants and other special guests. The celebration featured guided walking tours of the Memorial Loop Trail, presentations by the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, food and refreshments. The event commemorated the dedication of 3,800 acres of Forest Service land in Graham County to poet Joyce Kilmer, author of the poem "Trees," who was killed in World War I. Congress later designated 14,000 acres of land in the area as the Joyce Kilmer-Slickrock Wilderness. This 75th anniversary celebration was a partnership of the Forest Service, Partners of Joyce Kilmer-Slickrock Wilderness, the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, and Alcoa Inc.
       WHO:   Forest Service employees, local officials, representatives of the Partners of Joyce Kilmer-Slickrock Wilderness, Alcoa, the Eastern Band of Cherokee Nation, as well as many other partners from the public and private sector
       WHEN:   Saturday, July 30, 2011
All day with ceremony at 1 p.m. Eastern Time
       WHERE:   Rattler Ford Campground, Hwy 1127, Robbinsville, N.C. 28771 (Located .25 miles south of the entrance to Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest)
About Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest:
       The Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest is named after poet Joyce Kilmer, author of the poem "Trees," which may be his best-known work. He was killed in action during World War I while serving in France on July 30, 1918. In 1934, the Bozeman Bulger Post of the VFW petitioned the U.S. government to find a suitable area to serve as a monument to Kilmer. An isolated pocket of old-growth hardwood forest within the Nantahala National Forest's Cheoah Ranger District in western North Carolina was selected. The land was one of the few remaining tracts of virgin hardwood in the Appalachians. On July 30, 1936, ceremonies were conducted to honor Kilmer and dedicate the Memorial Forest to his memory. Congress later designated national forest land in the area as the Joyce Kilmer-Slickrock Wilderness.
       Today the wilderness area borders two states and totals 17,394 acres: 13,562 acres in North Carolina and 3,832 acres in Tennessee. The Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest is a great example of a cove hardwood forest - a forest characterized by rich soils, abundant moisture and a variety of plants, including wildflowers. The magnificent forest contains towering trees - some of which are more than 450 years old. Some tulip-poplars are more than 20 feet in circumference and over 100 feet tall. Like other wildernesses, the Joyce Kilmer-Slickrock Wilderness is managed to protect naturalness and solitude. No motorized vehicles or equipment are allowed in the wilderness. The best way to experience the forest is on foot. There are approximately 55 miles of hiking trails. The trails are maintained to the most primitive standards. If you plan to visit this area, you are encouraged to carry a topographic map and a compass.
Photographs by Carolyn Suffern

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