Friday, April 29, 2016

NPM Celebrations - Arbor Day

April 29th is Arbor Day, a day dedicated annually to public tree-planting in the US, Australia, and other countries. In the United States it is celebrated on the last Friday in April. Trees are so important. They provide us with two things we cannot live without: food and oxygen. They also offer the added benefit of serving as a source for shelter, beauty, and a wealth of wood products.

Just how many trees are there in the world?
In thinking about trees today, I'm sharing snippets of poems in a form borrowed from Wallace Stevens. You'll recognize it as Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird.

Thirteen Ways of Looking at Trees

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.

From Trees by Joyce Kilmer

Trees know the soft secrets of clouds
       the dark siftings of soil
The hear the high keening of squalls
           the deep rumbling of rocks
Trees whisper for the sky's damp blessings
       and the earth's misty kisses

From Go-Betweens by Marilyn Singer
in Footprints on the Roof: Poems About the Earth, written by Marilyn Singer and illustrated by Meilo So 

Trees need not walk the earth
For beauty or for bread;
Beauty will come to them
In the rainbow—
The sunlight—
And the lilac-haunted rain;
And bread will come to them

From Trees Need Not Walk the Earth by David Rosenthal

Major tree traffic today—
commuters in both directions,

rippling up and down,
tails unfurled.

The treeway is
heavily squirreled.

Tree Traffic by Kristine O'Connell George
in Old Elm Speaks: Tree Poems, written by Kristine O'Connell George and illustrated by Kate Kiesler

The trees are coming into leaf
Like something almost being said;
he recent buds relax and spread,
Their greenness is a kind of grief.

From The Trees by Philip Larkin
in The Collected Poems, written by Philip Larkin and edited by Anthony Thwaite 

The cherry trees bend over and are shedding
On the old road where all that passed are dead,
Their petals, strewing the grass as for a wedding
This early May morn when there is none to wed.

From The Cherry Trees by Edward Thomas

Buds, which the breath of summer days
Shall lengthen into leafy sprays;
Boughs where the thrush, with crimson breast,
Shall haunt and sing and hide her nest;

From The Planting of the Apple-Tree by William Cullen Bryant

O white pear,
your flower-tufts,
thick on the branch,
bring summer and ripe fruits
in their purple hearts.

From Pear Tree by H.D.

This is the way that autumn came to the trees:
it stripped them down to the skin,
left their ebony bodies naked.
It shook out their hearts, the yellow leaves,
scattered them over the ground.
Anyone could trample them out of shape
undisturbed by a single moan of protest.

From When Autumn Came by Faiz Ahmed Faiz
in The True Subject: Selected Poems of Faiz Ahmed Faiz, translated by Naomi Lazard

Thus having prepared their buds
against a sure winter
the wise trees
stand sleeping in the cold.

From Winter Trees by William Carlos Williams

Years love trees in a way we can’t
imagine. They just don’t use the fruit
like us; they want instead the slant

of sun through narrow branches, the buckshot
of rain on these old cherries.

From Remaking a Neglected Orchard by Nathaniel Perry

Think finally about the secret will
Pretending obedience to Nature, but
Invidiously distinguishing everywhere,
Dividing up the world to conquer it,

From Learning the Trees by Howard Nemerov
in The Collected Poems of Howard Nemerov, written by Howard Nemerov

With strong and graceful outline,
With branches green and bare,
We fill the land through all the year,
With beauty everywhere.

From The Heart of the Tree by Henry Cuyler Bunner

Here's a handout of poems about trees from the Arbor Day Foundation.
I've written about trees and poetry before. Check out my Thematic Book List on Trees. (You'll find poetry books at the very top.)

That's it for today. I hope you'll join me tomorrow for our last celebration of the month. I can't believe it's almost done.

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