Have you ever memorized a poem?
Have you ever read a poem aloud?
It seems old-fashioned, perhaps, and maybe a bit daunting, to do either of these things — not to mention both. But it can be wonderful if you give it a try.
A dear friend of mine introduced me to the practice of memorizing and reciting poems while walking. I regularly hike in the city and state parks around Austin, so the idea of “Poetry in Motion” greatly appealed to me.
I chose a short rhyming piece for my first poem, one that celebrates the natural world. As I began to learn it on a Saturday hike at Pedernales Falls, I concentrated on remembering the stanzas one by one, and found myself thinking more and more about the word choices and the sentence structure — and really appreciating how the poet put it all together.
Because it’s an oft-quoted poem, I had been familiar wtih the first two lines (as some of you might be as well) but didn’t know the rest of it. Now I know it quite well and love every line, though my favorite is “who intimately lives with rain.”
So perfect and provocative. As poetry should be.
by Joyce Kilmer (1886-1918)
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.
“Trees” was originally published in Trees and Other Poems. Joyce Kilmer. New York: George H. Doran Company, 1914.