Joyce Kilmer
Overview
Alfred Joyce Kilmer was an American
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 journalist
Journalist
A journalist collects and distributes news and other information. A journalist's work is referred to as journalism.A reporter is a type of journalist who researchs, writes, and reports on information to be presented in mass media, including print media , electronic media , and digital media A...

, poet
Poet
A poet is a person who writes poetry. A poet's work can be literal, meaning that his work is derived from a specific event, or metaphorical, meaning that his work can take on many meanings and forms. Poets have existed since antiquity, in nearly all languages, and have produced works that vary...

, literary critic
Literary criticism
Literary criticism is the study, evaluation, and interpretation of literature. Modern literary criticism is often informed by literary theory, which is the philosophical discussion of its methods and goals...

, lecture
Lecture
thumb|A lecture on [[linear algebra]] at the [[Helsinki University of Technology]]A lecture is an oral presentation intended to present information or teach people about a particular subject, for example by a university or college teacher. Lectures are used to convey critical information, history,...

r, and editor
Editing
Editing is the process of selecting and preparing written, visual, audible, and film media used to convey information through the processes of correction, condensation, organization, and other modifications performed with an intention of producing a correct, consistent, accurate, and complete...

. Though a prolific poet whose works celebrated the common beauty of the natural world as well as his religious faith, Kilmer is remembered most for a short poem entitled "Trees" (1913), which was published in the collection Trees and Other Poems in 1914. While most of his works are unknown, a select few of his poems remain popular and are published frequently in anthologies.
Quotations

At present, I am a poet trying to be a soldier. To tell the truth, I am not interested in writing nowadays, except in so far as writing is the expression of something beautiful ... The only sort of book I care to write about the war is the sort people will read after the war is over — a century after it is over.

A letter home, included in Joyce Kilmer, Poems, Essays and Letters (1918) Edited by Robert Holliday

In a wood they call the Rouge Bouquet,There is a new-made grave today,Built by never a spade nor pick,Yet covered with earth ten meteres thick.There lie many fighting men.Dead in their youthful primeNever to laugh nor love againNor taste the Summertime.

"Rouge Bouquet" (1918)

Yes, God forgives and men forget, And you're forgiven and forgotten.You might be gaily sinning yet And quick and fresh instead of rotten.And when you think of love and fame And all that might have come to pass,Then don't you feel a little shame? And don't you think you were an ass?

"To A Young Poet Who Killed Himself"

They shall not live who have not tasted death. They only sing who are struck dumb by God.

"Poets"

There is no strange and distant placeThat is not gladdened by His face.And every nation kneels to hailThe Splendour shining through Its veil.

"Citizen of the World"

An iron hand has stilled the throats That throbbed with loud and rhythmic glee And dammed the flood of silver notesThat drenched the world in melody.

"To a Blackbird and His Mate Who Died in the Spring"

I have no vision of gods, not of Eros with love-arrows laden, Jupiter thundering death or of Juno his white-breasted queen, Yet have I seen All of the joy of the world in the innocent heart of a maiden.

"Vision"

Here is a shop of wonderment. From every land has come a prize;Rich spices from the Orient, And fruit that knew Italian skies,And figs that ripened by the sea In Smyrna, nuts from hot Brazil,Strange pungent meats from Germany, And currants from a Grecian hill.

Encyclopedia
Alfred Joyce Kilmer was an American
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 journalist
Journalist
A journalist collects and distributes news and other information. A journalist's work is referred to as journalism.A reporter is a type of journalist who researchs, writes, and reports on information to be presented in mass media, including print media , electronic media , and digital media A...

, poet
Poet
A poet is a person who writes poetry. A poet's work can be literal, meaning that his work is derived from a specific event, or metaphorical, meaning that his work can take on many meanings and forms. Poets have existed since antiquity, in nearly all languages, and have produced works that vary...

, literary critic
Literary criticism
Literary criticism is the study, evaluation, and interpretation of literature. Modern literary criticism is often informed by literary theory, which is the philosophical discussion of its methods and goals...

, lecture
Lecture
thumb|A lecture on [[linear algebra]] at the [[Helsinki University of Technology]]A lecture is an oral presentation intended to present information or teach people about a particular subject, for example by a university or college teacher. Lectures are used to convey critical information, history,...

r, and editor
Editing
Editing is the process of selecting and preparing written, visual, audible, and film media used to convey information through the processes of correction, condensation, organization, and other modifications performed with an intention of producing a correct, consistent, accurate, and complete...

. Though a prolific poet whose works celebrated the common beauty of the natural world as well as his religious faith, Kilmer is remembered most for a short poem entitled "Trees" (1913), which was published in the collection Trees and Other Poems in 1914. While most of his works are unknown, a select few of his poems remain popular and are published frequently in anthologies. Several critics, both Kilmer's contemporaries and modern scholars, disparaged Kilmer's work as being too simple, overly sentimental, and suggested that his style was far too traditional, even archaic.

At the time of his deployment to Europe during the first World War
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

 (1914–1918), Kilmer was considered the leading American Catholic poet and lecturer of his generation, whom critics often compared to British contemporaries G. K. Chesterton
G. K. Chesterton
Gilbert Keith Chesterton, KC*SG was an English writer. His prolific and diverse output included philosophy, ontology, poetry, plays, journalism, public lectures and debates, literary and art criticism, biography, Christian apologetics, and fiction, including fantasy and detective fiction....

 (1874–1936) and Hilaire Belloc
Hilaire Belloc
Joseph Hilaire Pierre René Belloc was an Anglo-French writer and historian who became a naturalised British subject in 1902. He was one of the most prolific writers in England during the early twentieth century. He was known as a writer, orator, poet, satirist, man of letters and political activist...

 (1870–1953). A sergeant in the 165th U.S. Infantry Regiment
U.S. 69th Infantry Regiment
The 69th Infantry Regiment is a military unit from New York City, part of the New York Army National Guard. It is known as the Fighting Sixty-Ninth, a name said to have been given to it by Robert E. Lee during the Civil War...

 (better known as The Fighting 69th), Kilmer was killed at the Second Battle of the Marne
Second Battle of the Marne
The Second Battle of the Marne , or Battle of Reims was the last major German Spring Offensive on the Western Front during the First World War. The German attack failed when an Allied counterattack led by France overwhelmed the Germans, inflicting severe casualties...

 in 1918 at the age of 31.

Early years: 1886–1908

Kilmer was born December 6, 1886 in New Brunswick, New Jersey
New Brunswick, New Jersey
New Brunswick is a city in Middlesex County, New Jersey, USA. It is the county seat and the home of Rutgers University. The city is located on the Northeast Corridor rail line, southwest of Manhattan, on the southern bank of the Raritan River. At the 2010 United States Census, the population of...

, the fourth and youngest child of Annie Ellen Kilburn (1849–1932) and Dr. Frederick Barnett Kilmer (1851–1934), a physician and analytical chemist employed by the Johnson and Johnson Company
Johnson & Johnson
Johnson & Johnson is an American multinational pharmaceutical, medical devices and consumer packaged goods manufacturer founded in 1886. Its common stock is a component of the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the company is listed among the Fortune 500....

 and inventor of the company's baby powder
Baby powder
Baby powder is an astringent powder used for preventing diaper rash, as a deodorant, and for other cosmetic uses. It may be composed of talc or corn starch. Talcum powder is harmful if inhaled since it may cause aspiration pneumonia or granuloma. Drugs such as cocaine are sometimes cut with...

. Joyce was named Alfred Joyce Kilmer after Alfred R. Taylor, the curate; and the Rev. Dr. Elisha Brooks Joyce (1857–1926), the rector of Christ Church, the oldest Episcopal parish in New Brunswick, where the Kilmer family were parishioners. Rector Joyce, who served the parish from 1883 to 1916, baptised the young Kilmer. Kilmer's birthplace in New Brunswick, where the Kilmer family lived from 1886 to 1892, is still standing, and houses a small museum to Kilmer, as well as a few Middlesex County
Middlesex County, New Jersey
-Demographics:As of the census of 2000, there were 750,162 people, 265,815 households, and 190,855 families residing in the county. The population density was 2,422 people per square mile . There were 273,637 housing units at an average density of 884 per square mile...

 government offices.

Kilmer entered Rutgers College Grammar School (now Rutgers Preparatory School
Rutgers Preparatory School
Rutgers Preparatory School is a private, coeducational, university preparatory day school located in Somerset, New Jersey serving students in Pre-Kindergarten through 12th grade...

) in 1895 at the age of 8. During his years at the Grammar School, he....
"...won the Lane prize in public speaking and was editor-in-chief of the Argo, the school paper. He loved the classics, although he had considerable difficulty with Greek. In his last year at Rutgers, he won the first Lane Classical Prize, a free scholarship for the academic course at Rutgers College, and one hundred dollars in money. Despite his difficulties with mathematics and Greek, he stood at the head of his class in preparatory school."


After graduating from Rutgers College Grammar School in 1904, he continued his education at Rutgers College
Rutgers University
Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey , is the largest institution for higher education in New Jersey, United States. It was originally chartered as Queen's College in 1766. It is the eighth-oldest college in the United States and one of the nine Colonial colleges founded before the American...

 from 1904 to 1906. At Rutgers, Kilmer was associate editor of the Targum
The Daily Targum
The Daily Targum is the official student newspaper of Rutgers University, the State University of New Jersey. Founded in 1869, it is the second-oldest collegiate newspaper in the United States. The Daily Targum is student written and managed, and boasts a circulation of 18,000...

, the campus newspaper and a member of the Delta Upsilon
Delta Upsilon
Delta Upsilon is the sixth oldest international, all-male, college Greek-letter organization, and is the oldest non-secret fraternity in North America...

 fraternity. Unable to complete the rigorous mathematics requirement in the curriculum at Rutgers, facing a repeat of his sophomore year and under pressure from his mother, Kilmer transferred to Columbia College of Columbia University
Columbia College of Columbia University
Columbia College is the oldest undergraduate college at Columbia University, situated on the university's main campus in Morningside Heights in the borough of Manhattan in New York City. It was founded in 1754 by the Church of England as King's College, receiving a Royal Charter from King George II...

 in New York City.

At Columbia, Kilmer was vice-president of the Philolexian Society
Philolexian Society
The Philolexian Society of Columbia University is one of the oldest college literary societies in the United States, and the oldest student group at Columbia...

, associate editor of Columbia Spectator, the campus newspaper, and member of the Debating Union. He completed his Bachelor of Arts
Bachelor of Arts
A Bachelor of Arts , from the Latin artium baccalaureus, is a bachelor's degree awarded for an undergraduate course or program in either the liberal arts, the sciences, or both...

 (A.B.) degree and was graduated from Columbia on May 23, 1908. Shortly after graduation, on June 9, 1908, he married Aline Murray
Aline Murray Kilmer
Aline Murray Kilmer , was an American poet, children's book author, and essayist, and the wife and widow of poet and journalist Joyce Kilmer .- Biography :...

 (1888–1941), a fellow poet to whom he had been engaged since his sophomore year at Rutgers. The Kilmers had five children: Kenton Sinclair Kilmer (1909–1995), Michael Barry Kilmer (1916–1927), Deborah ("Sister Michael") Clanton Kilmer (1914–1999) who was a Catholic nun at the Saint Benedict’s Monastery, Rose Kilburn Kilmer (1912–1917), and Christopher Kilmer (1917–1984).

Years of writing and faith: 1909–1917

Shortly after his marriage and graduation from Columbia, Kilmer sought teaching positions. In the autumn of 1908, he obtained a position teaching Latin at Morristown High School
Morristown High School
Morristown High School is a four-year public high school serving students in grades 9 - 12 from three communities in Morris County, New Jersey, United States, operating as part of the Morris School District...

  in Morristown, New Jersey
Morristown, New Jersey
Morristown is a town in Morris County, New Jersey, United States. As of the 2010 United States Census, the town population was 18,411. It is the county seat of Morris County. Morristown became characterized as "the military capital of the American Revolution" because of its strategic role in the...

, and finding that teaching did not demand much of his time, he found considerable time to dedicate to writing. At this time, he submitted essay
Essay
An essay is a piece of writing which is often written from an author's personal point of view. Essays can consist of a number of elements, including: literary criticism, political manifestos, learned arguments, observations of daily life, recollections, and reflections of the author. The definition...

s to Red Cross Notes (including his first published piece, an essay on the "Psychology of Advertising") and poems to Moods, Smart Set, The Sun, The Pathfinder and The Bang. In addition to all this, he wrote book reviews for The Literary Digest, Town & Country
Town & Country (magazine)
Town & Country, formerly the Home Journal and The National Press, is a monthly American lifestyle magazine. It is the oldest continually published general interest magazine in the United States.-Early history:...

, The Nation
The Nation
The Nation is the oldest continuously published weekly magazine in the United States. The periodical, devoted to politics and culture, is self-described as "the flagship of the left." Founded on July 6, 1865, It is published by The Nation Company, L.P., at 33 Irving Place, New York City.The Nation...

, and The New York Times
The New York Times
The New York Times is an American daily newspaper founded and continuously published in New York City since 1851. The New York Times has won 106 Pulitzer Prizes, the most of any news organization...

. By June 1909, Kilmer had abandoned any aspirations to continue teaching and relocated to New York City
New York City
New York is the most populous city in the United States and the center of the New York Metropolitan Area, one of the most populous metropolitan areas in the world. New York exerts a significant impact upon global commerce, finance, media, art, fashion, research, technology, education, and...

, the literary and publishing mecca of the United States, deciding to focus solely on a career as a writer.

From 1909–1912, Kilmer was employed by Funk and Wagnalls
Funk and Wagnalls
Funk & Wagnalls was an American publisher known for its reference works, including A Standard Dictionary of the English Language , and the Funk & Wagnalls Standard Encyclopedia Funk & Wagnalls was an American publisher known for its reference works, including A Standard Dictionary of the English...

, which was preparing an edition of The Standard Dictionary. According to Hillis,
"[Kilmer's] job was to define ordinary words assigned to him at five cents for each word defined. This was a job at which one would ordinarily earn ten to twelve dollars a week, but Kilmer attacked the task with such vigor and speed that it was soon thought wisest to put him on a regular salary."


Shortly after the publication of The Standard Dictionary in 1912, Kilmer became a special writer for the New York Times Review of Books and the New York Times Sunday Magazine and was often engaged in lecturing. Kilmer and his family then moved to Mahwah, New Jersey
Mahwah, New Jersey
Mahwah is a township in Bergen County, New Jersey, United States. As of the 2010 United States Census, the township population was 25,890. The name Mahwah is derived from the Lenni Lenape word "mawewi" which means "Meeting Place" or "Place Where Paths Meet".The area that is now Mahwah was...

, where he resided until his service and death in World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

. Kilmer at this time was established as a published poet, and as a popular lecturer. According to Robert Holliday, Kilmer "frequently neglected to make any preparation for his speeches, not even choosing a subject until the beginning of the dinner which was to culminate in a specimen of his oratory. His constant research for the dictionary, and, later on, for his New York Times articles, must have given him a store of knowledge at his fingertips to be produced at a moment's notice for these emergencies."

In 1911, Kilmer's first book of verse, entitled Summer of Love was published. Kilmer would later write that "...some of the poems in it, those inspired by genuine love, are not things of which to be ashamed, and you, understanding, would not be offended by the others."

The Kilmers' daughter Rose (1912–1917) was stricken with Poliomyelitis
Poliomyelitis
Poliomyelitis, often called polio or infantile paralysis, is an acute viral infectious disease spread from person to person, primarily via the fecal-oral route...

 (also known as infantile paralysis) shortly after birth. The Kilmers turned to their religious faith
Faith
Faith is confidence or trust in a person or thing, or a belief that is not based on proof. In religion, faith is a belief in a transcendent reality, a religious teacher, a set of teachings or a Supreme Being. Generally speaking, it is offered as a means by which the truth of the proposition,...

, and in correspondence between Joyce Kilmer and Father James J. Daly, Joyce and Aline began a conversion to Catholicism
Catholicism
Catholicism is a broad term for the body of the Catholic faith, its theologies and doctrines, its liturgical, ethical, spiritual, and behavioral characteristics, as well as a religious people as a whole....

 into which they were received in 1913. In one of these letters, Kilmer writes:
"Of course you understand my conversion. I am beginning to understand it. I believed in the Catholic position, the Catholic view of ethics and aesthetics, for a long time. But I wanted something not intellectual, some conviction not mental - in fact I wanted Faith.
"Just off Broadway, on the way from the Hudson Tube Station to the Times Building
One Times Square
One Times Square is a 25 story, 395 foot high skyscraper at 42nd Street and Broadway in Times Square....

, there is a Church, called the Church of the Holy Innocents. Since it is in the heart of the Tenderloin
Tenderloin, Manhattan
The Tenderloin was an entertainment and red-light district in the heart of the New York City borough of Manhattan during the late 19th and early 20th centuries...

, this name is strangely appropriate - for there surely is need of youth and innocence. Well, every morning for months I stopped on my way to the office and prayed in this Church for faith. When faith did come, it came, I think, by way of my little paralyzed daughter. Her lifeless hands led me; I think her tiny feet know beautiful paths. You understand this and it gives me a selfish pleasure to write it down."


The year 1913 approached Kilmer in trials of suffering and faith but also in success. With the publication of "Trees" in the magazine Poetry, Kilmer gained immense popularity as a poet across the United States. At this time his popularity and success as a lecturer, particularly one seeking to reach a Catholic audience, led Robert Holliday to write: "It is not an unsupported assertion to say that he was in his time and place the laureate of the Catholic Church." Trees and Other Poems (1914) was published the following year. The next few years saw an immense output of work, with Kilmer continuing his lecturing, his literary criticism and essays, writing poetry, and finding the time in 1915 to become poetry editor of Current Literature and contributing editor of Warner's Library of the World's Best Literature. After the publication of The Circus and Other Essays in 1916, the following year would see the publication of three books, Literature in the Making, Main Street and Other Poems, and Dreams and Images: An Anthology of Catholic Poets.

War years: 1917–1918

Within a few days after the United States declared war on Germany and entered the first World War
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

 in April 1917, Kilmer enlisted in the Seventh Regiment of the New York National Guard. In August, Kilmer was initially assigned as a statistician with the U.S. 69th Infantry Regiment
U.S. 69th Infantry Regiment
The 69th Infantry Regiment is a military unit from New York City, part of the New York Army National Guard. It is known as the Fighting Sixty-Ninth, a name said to have been given to it by Robert E. Lee during the Civil War...

 (better known as the "Fighting 69th" and later redesignated the 165th Infantry Regiment), of the 42nd "Rainbow" Division, and quickly rose to the rank of Sergeant. Though he was eligible for commission as an officer and often recommended for such posts during the course of the war, Kilmer refused stating that he would rather be a sergeant in the Fighting 69th than an officer in any other regiment.

In September, before Kilmer was deployed, the Kilmer family was met with both the contrary emotions of tragedy and rejoicing. The Kilmer's daughter Rose had died, and twelve days later, their son Christopher was born. Kilmer sailed to Europe with his regiment on October 31, 1917, arriving in France two weeks later. Before his departure, Kilmer had contracted with publishers to write a book about the war, deciding upon the title Here and There with the Fighting Sixty-Ninth. Kilmer wrote home, stating "I have not written anything in prose or verse since I got here - except statistics - but I've stored up a lot of memories to turn into copy when I get a chance." Unfortunately, Kilmer never was to write such a book. During his time in Europe, Kilmer did write prose sketches and poetry, most notably the poem "Rouge Bouquet", which was written after the First Battalion of the 165th Regiment, which had been occupying the Rouge Bouquet forest northeast of the French village of Baccarat
Baccarat, Meurthe-et-Moselle
Baccarat is a commune in the Meurthe-et-Moselle department in north-eastern France.-Crystal:In 1764, King Louis XV granted permission to the Bishop of Metz to establish a glassworks at Baccarat...

, which at the time was a quiet sector of the front—was struck by a heavy artillery bombardment on the afternoon of March 12, 1918 that buried 21 men of the unit, of which 14 remained entombed.

Kilmer sought more hazardous duty and was transferred to the Regimental Intelligence Section
Military intelligence
Military intelligence is a military discipline that exploits a number of information collection and analysis approaches to provide guidance and direction to commanders in support of their decisions....

, in April 1918. He wrote to his wife, Aline that, "Now I'm doing work I love - and work you may be proud of. None of the drudgery of soldiering, but a double share of glory and thrills." According to Hillis:
"Kilmer's companions wrote: "He was worshipped by the men about him. I have heard them speak with awe of his coolness and his nerve in scouting patrols in No Man's Land.” This coolness and his habit of choosing, with typical enthusiasm, the most dangerous and difficult missions, led to his death."


During the Second Battle of Marne, there was heavy fighting throughout the last days of July 1918, and on July 30, 1918, Kilmer volunteered to accompany Major William "Wild Bill" Donovan
William Joseph Donovan
William Joseph Donovan was a United States soldier, lawyer and intelligence officer, best remembered as the wartime head of the Office of Strategic Services...

 when Donovan's Battalion (1-165th Infantry) was sent to lead the day's attack.

Death and burial

During the course of the day, Kilmer led a scouting party to find the position of a German machine gun. When his comrades found him, some time later, they thought at first that he was peering over the edge of a little hill, where he had crawled for a better view. When he did not answer their call, they ran to him and found him dead. According to Father Duffy: “A bullet had pierced his brain. His body was carried in and buried by the side of Ames. God rest his dear and gallant soul.” Kilmer died, likely immediately, from a sniper
Sniper
A sniper is a marksman who shoots targets from concealed positions or distances exceeding the capabilities of regular personnel. Snipers typically have specialized training and distinct high-precision rifles....

's bullet to the head near Muercy Farm, beside the Ourcq River near the village of Seringes-et-Nesles
Seringes-et-Nesles
Seringes-et-Nesles is a commune in the Aisne department in Picardy in northern France.-References:*...

, in France, on July 30, 1918 at the age of 31. For his valor, Kilmer was posthumously awarded the Croix de Guerre
Croix de guerre
The Croix de guerre is a military decoration of France. It was first created in 1915 and consists of a square-cross medal on two crossed swords, hanging from a ribbon with various degree pins. The decoration was awarded during World War I, again in World War II, and in other conflicts...

 (War Cross) by the French Republic
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

.

Kilmer was buried in the Oise-Aisne American Cemetery and Memorial, near Fere-en-Tardenois, Aisne
Aisne
Aisne is a department in the northern part of France named after the Aisne River.- History :Aisne is one of the original 83 departments created during the French Revolution on 4 March 1790. It was created from parts of the former provinces of Île-de-France, Picardie, and Champagne.Most of the old...

, Picardy
Picardy
This article is about the historical French province. For other uses, see Picardy .Picardy is a historical province of France, in the north of France...

, France. Although Kilmer is buried in France in an American military cemetery, a cenotaph
Cenotaph
A cenotaph is an "empty tomb" or a monument erected in honour of a person or group of people whose remains are elsewhere. It can also be the initial tomb for a person who has since been interred elsewhere. The word derives from the Greek κενοτάφιον = kenotaphion...

 is located on the Kilmer family plot in Elmwood Cemetery, in New Brunswick, New Jersey
New Brunswick, New Jersey
New Brunswick is a city in Middlesex County, New Jersey, USA. It is the county seat and the home of Rutgers University. The city is located on the Northeast Corridor rail line, southwest of Manhattan, on the southern bank of the Raritan River. At the 2010 United States Census, the population of...

. A memorial service was held at St. Patrick's Cathedral
St. Patrick's Cathedral, New York
The Cathedral of St. Patrick is a decorated Neo-Gothic-style Roman Catholic cathedral church in the United States...

 in Manhattan
Manhattan
Manhattan is the oldest and the most densely populated of the five boroughs of New York City. Located primarily on the island of Manhattan at the mouth of the Hudson River, the boundaries of the borough are identical to those of New York County, an original county of the state of New York...

.

"Trees"

Though a prolific poet, Joyce Kilmer is chiefly known for his poem, "Trees", published in the 1914 collection, Trees and Other Poems (see 1914 in poetry
1914 in poetry
Nationality words link to articles with information on the nation's poetry or literature .-Events:* January 29 – Yone Noguchi lectures on "The Japanese Hokku Poetry" at Magdalen College, Oxford...

), after it first appeared in Poetry magazine in August 1913. Kilmer wrote "Trees" on February 2, 1913, at his home in Mahwah, New Jersey
Mahwah, New Jersey
Mahwah is a township in Bergen County, New Jersey, United States. As of the 2010 United States Census, the township population was 25,890. The name Mahwah is derived from the Lenni Lenape word "mawewi" which means "Meeting Place" or "Place Where Paths Meet".The area that is now Mahwah was...

. The poem was dedicated to Mrs. Henry Mills Alden
Henry Mills Alden
Henry Mills Alden was an American author and editor of Harper's Magazine for fifty years—from 1869 until 1919.-Biography:...

 (Ada Foster Murray Alden), his wife
Aline Murray Kilmer
Aline Murray Kilmer , was an American poet, children's book author, and essayist, and the wife and widow of poet and journalist Joyce Kilmer .- Biography :...

's mother and a poet in her own right. Other sources, which state it was written in Chicago
Chicago
Chicago is the largest city in the US state of Illinois. With nearly 2.7 million residents, it is the most populous city in the Midwestern United States and the third most populous in the US, after New York City and Los Angeles...

, are unsubstantiated. "Trees" has been given several musical settings that were quite popular in the 1940s and 1950s, the most popular written by Oscar Rasbach
Oscar Rasbach
Oscar Rasbach was an American pianist and composer and arranger of art songs and works for piano.-Biography:...

 in 1922, with renditions performed by Ernestine Schumann-Heink
Ernestine Schumann-Heink
Ernestine Schumann-Heink was a celebrated Austrian, later American, operatic contralto, noted for the size, beauty, tonal richness, flexibility and wide range of her voice.- Early life:...

, John Charles Thomas
John Charles Thomas
John Charles Thomas was a popular American opera, operetta and concert baritone.-Birth, schooling and stage debut:...

, Nelson Eddy
Nelson Eddy
Nelson Ackerman Eddy was an American singer and actor who appeared in 19 musical films during the 1930s and 1940s, as well as in opera and on the concert stage, radio, television, and in nightclubs. A classically trained baritone, he is best remembered for the eight films in which he costarred...

, Robert Merrill
Robert Merrill
Robert Merrill was an American operatic baritone.-Early life:Merrill was born Moishe Miller, later known as Morris Miller, in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, New York, to tailor Abraham Miller, originally Milstein, and his wife Lillian, née Balaban, immigrants from Warsaw, Poland.His mother...

 and Paul Robeson
Paul Robeson
Paul Leroy Robeson was an American concert singer , recording artist, actor, athlete, scholar who was an advocate for the Civil Rights Movement in the first half of the twentieth century...

.

The text stated below is the original written by Kilmer.

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.

There have been several variations on the text, including many parody
Parody
A parody , in current usage, is an imitative work created to mock, comment on, or trivialise an original work, its subject, author, style, or some other target, by means of humorous, satiric or ironic imitation...

 texts substituted to mimic Kilmer's seemingly simple rhyme
Rhyme
A rhyme is a repetition of similar sounds in two or more words and is most often used in poetry and songs. The word "rhyme" may also refer to a short poem, such as a rhyming couplet or other brief rhyming poem such as nursery rhymes.-Etymology:...

 and meter, and questioning the poem's choice of metaphors. Of the often repeated parodies, one of the most known is "Song of the Open Road" by Ogden Nash
Ogden Nash
Frederic Ogden Nash was an American poet well known for his light verse. At the time of his death in 1971, the New York Times said his "droll verse with its unconventional rhymes made him the country's best-known producer of humorous poetry".-Early life:Nash was born in Rye, New York...

 (1902–1971):
I think that I shall never see
A billboard lovely as a tree.
Indeed, unless the billboards fall,
I'll never see a tree at all.


The Trappist monk Thomas Merton
Thomas Merton
Thomas Merton, O.C.S.O. was a 20th century Anglo-American Catholic writer and mystic. A Trappist monk of the Abbey of Gethsemani, Kentucky, he was a poet, social activist, and student of comparative religion...

, who followed Kilmer in the Philolexian Society
Philolexian Society
The Philolexian Society of Columbia University is one of the oldest college literary societies in the United States, and the oldest student group at Columbia...

 of Columbia University
Columbia University
Columbia University in the City of New York is a private, Ivy League university in Manhattan, New York City. Columbia is the oldest institution of higher learning in the state of New York, the fifth oldest in the United States, and one of the country's nine Colonial Colleges founded before the...

 by some 30 years, once wrote a parody called "Chee$e" (with a dollar sign substituting for the letter "s,"), which mocked the lucrative sale of homemade cheese by his monastery, the Abbey of Gethsemani
Abbey of Gethsemani
The Abbey of Our Lady of Gethsemani is a Trappist monastery near Bardstown, Kentucky in Nelson County—situated on more than 2,000 acres of farmland, and considered to be the "mother house" of all Trappist and Trappistine monasteries in the United States of America...

. Among the lines was "The sucker's hungry mouth is pressed/Against the cheese's caraway breast."

In the Our Gang
Our Gang
Our Gang, also known as The Little Rascals or Hal Roach's Rascals, was a series of American comedy short films about a group of poor neighborhood children and the adventures they had together. Created by comedy producer Hal Roach, the series is noted for showing children behaving in a relatively...

 short "Arbor Day," Alfalfa
Carl Switzer
Carl Dean "Alfalfa" Switzer was an American child actor, professional dog breeder and hunting guide, most notable for appearing in the Our Gang short subjects series as Alfalfa, one of the series' most popular and best-remembered characters.-Early life and family:Switzer was born in Paris,...

, after the cue in a Woodsman-spare-that-tree exchange with Spanky, sings "Trees," in what Leonard Maltin
Leonard Maltin
Leonard Maltin is an American film and animated film critic and historian, author of several mainstream books on cinema, focusing on nostalgic, celebratory narratives.-Personal life:...

 called "the poem's all-time worst rendition," with his whiny, strained voice.

In his album Caught in the Act, Victor Borge
Victor Borge
Victor Borge ,born Børge Rosenbaum, was a Danish comedian, conductor and pianist, affectionately known as The Clown Prince of Denmark,The Unmelancholy Dane,and The Great Dane.-Early life and career:...

, at one point, when playing requests, says, "Sorry I don't know that 'Doggie in the Window'. I know one that comes pretty close to it." Then he starts to play "Trees."

"Trees" was popularised in 1948 by the eponym segment of Melody Time
Melody Time
Melody Time is a 1948 animated feature produced by Walt Disney and released to theatres by RKO Radio Pictures on May 27, 1948. Made up of several sequences set to popular music and folk music, the film is, like Make Mine Music before it, the popular music version of Fantasia Melody Time is a 1948...

, an animated feature produced by Walt Disney
Walt Disney
Walter Elias "Walt" Disney was an American film producer, director, screenwriter, voice actor, animator, entrepreneur, entertainer, international icon, and philanthropist, well-known for his influence in the field of entertainment during the 20th century. Along with his brother Roy O...

, and also in the 1980 film Superman II
Superman II
Superman II is the 1980 sequel to the 1978 superhero film Superman and stars Gene Hackman, Christopher Reeve, Terence Stamp, Ned Beatty, Sarah Douglas, Margot Kidder, and Jack O'Halloran. It was the only Superman film to be filmed by two directors...

, of which there are two versions, one directed by Richard Donner
Richard Donner
Richard Donner is an American film director, film producer, and comic book writer.The production company The Donners' Company is owned by Donner and his wife, producer Lauren Shuler Donner. After directing the horror film The Omen, Donner became famous for the hailed creation of the first modern...

 and one directed by Richard Lester
Richard Lester
Richard Lester is an American film director based in Britain. Lester is notable for his work with The Beatles in the 1960s and his work on the Superman film series in the 1980s.-Early years and television:...

 . Donner's original version, belatedly released in 2006, has Marlon Brando
Marlon Brando
Marlon Brando, Jr. was an American movie star and political activist. "Unchallenged as the most important actor in modern American Cinema" according to the St...

 reading Kilmer's poem. These scenes had been shot in April 1977. Lester had British actor John Hollis
John Hollis
John Hollis was an English actor. He played the role of Lobot in Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back and the German porter at the chateau in The Dirty Dozen...

 reprise Brando's role in July 1979, and it is he who appears in the original 1980 theatrical release. When Gene Hackman
Gene Hackman
Eugene Allen "Gene" Hackman is an American actor and novelist.Nominated for five Academy Awards, winning two, Hackman has also won three Golden Globes and two BAFTAs in a career that spanned five decades. He first came to fame in 1967 with his performance as Buck Barrow in Bonnie and Clyde...

 as Lex Luthor
Lex Luthor
Lex Luthor is a fictional character, a supervillain who appears in comic books published by DC Comics, and the archenemy of Superman, although given his high status as a supervillain, he has also come into conflict with Batman and other superheroes in the DC Universe. Created by Jerry Siegel and...

 cuts short the recitation, his assistant Miss Teshmocker, played by Valerie Perrine
Valerie Perrine
- Life and career :Perrine was born in Galveston, Texas, the daughter of Winifred , a dancer who appeared in Earl Carroll's Vanities, and Kenneth Perrine, a Lieutenant Colonel in the US Army. Owing to her father's career, Perrine lived in many locations as the family moved to different...

, protests, "I like Trees." Luthor responds, "So does your average cocker spaniel."

Inspiration

According to Kilmer's son, Kenton, the poem—which was not inspired by any specific tree but about trees in general—was written "...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 do not know what else." However, a 1915 interview with Kilmer "pointed out that while Kilmer might be widely known for his affection for trees, his affection was certainly not sentimental - the most distinguished feature of Kilmer's property was a colossal woodpile outside his home. The house stood in the middle of a forest and what lawn it possessed was obtained only after Kilmer had spent months of weekend toil in chopping down trees, pulling up stumps, and splitting logs. Kilmer's neighbors had difficulty in believing that a man who could do that could also be a poet."

Many locations across the United States maintain legends that certain trees in their localities inspired Kilmer to write the poem. Most noted among them is the tradition in Kilmer's birthplace, New Brunswick, New Jersey
New Brunswick, New Jersey
New Brunswick is a city in Middlesex County, New Jersey, USA. It is the county seat and the home of Rutgers University. The city is located on the Northeast Corridor rail line, southwest of Manhattan, on the southern bank of the Raritan River. At the 2010 United States Census, the population of...

, which states that Kilmer wrote the poem "Trees" after a large white oak
White oak
Quercus alba, the white oak, is one of the pre-eminent hardwoods of eastern North America. It is a long-lived oak of the Fagaceae family, native to eastern North America and found from southern Quebec west to eastern Minnesota and south to northern Florida and eastern Texas. Specimens have been...

 (Quercus alba) tree that was located on the outskirts of town on the campus of Cook College
Cook College (Rutgers University)
The School of Environmental and Biological Sciences is a constituent school within Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey's flagship New Brunswick-Piscataway campus...

 (now known as the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences), at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey. This tree, estimated to be over three hundred years old, was so weakened by age and disease that it had to be removed in 1963. Currently, saplings from acorns of the historic tree are being grown at the site, throughout the Middlesex County area, and in major arboretums around the United States. The remains of the original Kilmer Oak are currently kept in storage at Rutgers University.

Guy Davenport
Guy Davenport
Guy Mattison Davenport was an American writer, translator, illustrator, painter, intellectual, and teacher.-Life:...

 suggests quite a different inspiration. "Trees were favorite symbols for Yeats, Frost, and even the young Pound. [ . . . ] But Kilmer had been reading about trees in another context[,] the movement to stop child labor and set up nursery schools in slums. [ . . . ] Margaret McMillan . . . had the happy idea that a breath of fresh air and an intimate acquaintance with grass and trees were worth all the pencils and desks in the whole school system. [ . . . ] The English word for gymnasium equipment is 'apparatus.' And in her book Labour and Childhood (1907) you will find this sentence: 'Apparatus can be made by fools, but only God can make a tree.'". However, as this quotation cannot be found in McMillan's book, Davenport must be in error here.

Scansion and analysis

"Trees" has twelve lines of eight syllables in strict iambic tetrameter
Iambic tetrameter
Iambic tetrameter is a meter in poetry. It refers to a line consisting of four iambic feet. The word "tetrameter" simply means that there are four feet in the line; iambic tetrameter is a line comprising four iambs...

. The poem's rhyme scheme
Rhyme scheme
A rhyme scheme is the pattern of rhyme between lines of a poem or song. It is usually referred to by using letters to indicate which lines rhyme. In other words, it is the pattern of end rhymes or lines...

 is rhyming couplets
Couplet
A couplet is a pair of lines of meter in poetry. It usually consists of two lines that rhyme and have the same meter.While traditionally couplets rhyme, not all do. A poem may use white space to mark out couplets if they do not rhyme. Couplets with a meter of iambic pentameter are called heroic...

 rendered aa bb cc dd ee aa.

Despite its deceptive simplicity in rhyme and meter, "Trees" is notable for its use of personification and anthropomorphic imagery
Anthropomorphism
Anthropomorphism is any attribution of human characteristics to animals, non-living things, phenomena, material states, objects or abstract concepts, such as organizations, governments, spirits or deities. The term was coined in the mid 1700s...

: the tree
Tree
A tree is a perennial woody plant. It is most often defined as a woody plant that has many secondary branches supported clear of the ground on a single main stem or trunk with clear apical dominance. A minimum height specification at maturity is cited by some authors, varying from 3 m to...

 of the poem, which Kilmer depicts as female
Female
Female is the sex of an organism, or a part of an organism, which produces non-mobile ova .- Defining characteristics :The ova are defined as the larger gametes in a heterogamous reproduction system, while the smaller, usually motile gamete, the spermatozoon, is produced by the male...

, is depicted as pressing its mouth
Mouth
The mouth is the first portion of the alimentary canal that receives food andsaliva. The oral mucosa is the mucous membrane epithelium lining the inside of the mouth....

 to the Earth's breast
Breast
The breast is the upper ventral region of the torso of a primate, in left and right sides, which in a female contains the mammary gland that secretes milk used to feed infants.Both men and women develop breasts from the same embryological tissues...

, looking at God
God
God is the English name given to a singular being in theistic and deistic religions who is either the sole deity in monotheism, or a single deity in polytheism....

, and raising its "leafy arms" to pray
Pray
Pray may refer to:* Prayer, an active effort to communicate with a deity or spiritIt may also refer to:-Places:Italy* Pray, Piedmont, a comune in the Province of BiellaUnited States* Pray, Wisconsin, an unincorporated community-People:...

. The tree of the poem also has human physical attributes — it has a "hungry mouth
Mouth
The mouth is the first portion of the alimentary canal that receives food andsaliva. The oral mucosa is the mucous membrane epithelium lining the inside of the mouth....

", arm
Arm
In human anatomy, the arm is the part of the upper limb between the shoulder and the elbow joints. In other animals, the term arm can also be used for analogous structures, such as one of the paired forelimbs of a four-legged animal or the arms of cephalopods...

s, hair
Hair
Hair is a filamentous biomaterial, that grows from follicles found in the dermis. Found exclusively in mammals, hair is one of the defining characteristics of the mammalian class....

 (in which Robins
American Robin
The American Robin or North American Robin is a migratory songbird of the thrush family. It is named after the European Robin because of its reddish-orange breast, though the two species are not closely related, with the European robin belonging to the flycatcher family...

 nest), and a bosom.

"Rouge Bouquet"

To commemorate the loss of 21 fellow soldiers of The Fighting Sixty Ninth, Kilmer composed the following poem which was read over their graves in March 1918. It is traditional in the regiment to read the poem at memorial services for fallen members of the regiment, adding their names to the list of the dead in the appropriate line, and it was read over his own grave five months after he wrote it:
In a wood they call the Rouge Bouquet
There is a new-made grave to-day,
Built by never a spade nor pick
Yet covered with earth ten metres thick.
There lie many fighting men,
Dead in their youthful prime,
Never to laugh nor love again
Nor taste the Summertime.
For Death came flying through the air
And stopped his flight at the dugout stair,
Touched his prey and left them there,
Clay to clay.
He hid their bodies stealthily
In the soil of the land they fought to free
And fled away.
Now over the grave abrupt and clear
Three volleys ring;
And perhaps their brave young spirits hear
The bugle sing:
“Go to sleep!
Go to sleep!
Slumber well where the shell screamed and fell.
Let your rifles rest on the muddy floor,
You will not need them any more.
Danger’s past;
Now at last,
Go to sleep!”

There is on earth no worthier grave
To hold the bodies of the brave
Than this place of pain and pride
Where they nobly fought and nobly died.
Never fear but in the skies
Saints and angels stand
Smiling with their holy eyes
On this new-come band.
St. Michael’s sword darts through the air
And touches the aureole on his hair
As he sees them stand saluting there,
His stalwart sons;
And Patrick, Brigid, Columkill
Rejoice that in veins of warriors still
The Gael’s blood runs.
And up to Heaven’s doorway floats,
From the wood called Rouge Bouquet,
A delicate cloud of buglenotes
That softly say:
“Farewell!
Farewell!
Comrades true, born anew, peace to you!
Your souls shall be where the heroes are
And your memory shine like the morning-star.
Brave and dear,
Shield us here.
Farewell!”

Criticism and influence

Joyce Kilmer's reputation as a poet is staked largely on the widespread popularity
Popularity
Popularity is the quality of being well-liked or common, or having a high social status. Popularity figures are an important part of many people's personal value systems and form a vital component of success in people-oriented fields such as management, politics, and entertainment, among...

 of one poem, namely "Trees". His untimely death removed from him the opportunity to develop into a more mature poet. Because "Trees" is often dismissed by modern critics and scholars as simple verse, much of Kilmer's work, especially his literary criticism
Literary criticism
Literary criticism is the study, evaluation, and interpretation of literature. Modern literary criticism is often informed by literary theory, which is the philosophical discussion of its methods and goals...

, has slipped into obscurity. Only a very few of his poems have appeared in anthologies
Anthology
An anthology is a collection of literary works chosen by the compiler. It may be a collection of poems, short stories, plays, songs, or excerpts...

, and with the exception of "Trees" and to a much lesser extent "Rouge Bouquet", almost none have obtained lasting widespread popularity.

The entire corpus of Kilmer's work appears in the early years of the modernist
Modernism
Modernism, in its broadest definition, is modern thought, character, or practice. More specifically, the term describes the modernist movement, its set of cultural tendencies and array of associated cultural movements, originally arising from wide-scale and far-reaching changes to Western society...

 movement, especially before the influence of the Lost Generation
Lost Generation
The "Lost Generation" is a term used to refer to the generation, actually a cohort, that came of age during World War I. The term was popularized by Ernest Hemingway who used it as one of two contrasting epigraphs for his novel, The Sun Also Rises. In that volume Hemingway credits the phrase to...

. In the years after Kilmer's death, poetry went in new directions, as is seen especially in the work of T. S. Eliot
T. S. Eliot
Thomas Stearns "T. S." Eliot OM was a playwright, literary critic, and arguably the most important English-language poet of the 20th century. Although he was born an American he moved to the United Kingdom in 1914 and was naturalised as a British subject in 1927 at age 39.The poem that made his...

 (1888–1965) and Ezra Pound
Ezra Pound
Ezra Weston Loomis Pound was an American expatriate poet and critic and a major figure in the early modernist movement in poetry...

. The years in which Kilmer was writing, and the conservatism and traditional style he used, were the last of the Romantic era
Romanticism
Romanticism was an artistic, literary and intellectual movement that originated in the second half of the 18th century in Europe, and gained strength in reaction to the Industrial Revolution...

. Kilmer's poetry is often criticized for failing to break free of traditional modes, rhyme
Rhyme
A rhyme is a repetition of similar sounds in two or more words and is most often used in poetry and songs. The word "rhyme" may also refer to a short poem, such as a rhyming couplet or other brief rhyming poem such as nursery rhymes.-Etymology:...

 and meter, or themes, and for being too sentimental to be taken seriously.

Kilmer's early works were inspired by, and were imitative of, the poetry of Algernon Charles Swinburne
Algernon Charles Swinburne
Algernon Charles Swinburne was an English poet, playwright, novelist, and critic. He invented the roundel form, wrote several novels, and contributed to the famous Eleventh Edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica...

, Ernest Dowson
Ernest Dowson
Ernest Christopher Dowson , born in Lee, London, was an English poet, novelist and writer of short stories, associated with the Decadent movement.- Biography :...

, Aubrey Beardsley
Aubrey Beardsley
Aubrey Vincent Beardsley was an English illustrator and author. His drawings, done in black ink and influenced by the style of Japanese woodcuts, emphasized the grotesque, the decadent, and the erotic. He was a leading figure in the Aesthetic movement which also included Oscar Wilde and James A....

, and William Butler Yeats
William Butler Yeats
William Butler Yeats was an Irish poet and playwright, and one of the foremost figures of 20th century literature. A pillar of both the Irish and British literary establishments, in his later years he served as an Irish Senator for two terms...

. It was later through the influence of works by Coventry Patmore
Coventry Patmore
Coventry Kersey Dighton Patmore was an English poet and critic best known for The Angel in the House, his narrative poem about an ideal happy marriage.-Youth:...

, Francis Thompson
Francis Thompson
Francis Thompson was an English poet and ascetic. After attending college, he moved to London to become a writer, but in menial work, became addicted to opium, and was a street vagrant for years. A married couple read his poetry and rescued him, publishing his first book, Poems in 1893...

, and those of Alice Meynell
Alice Meynell
Alice Christiana Gertrude Thompson Meynell was an English writer, editor, critic, and suffragist, now remembered mainly as a poet.-Biography:...

 and her children Viola Meynell
Viola Meynell
Viola Meynell Dallyn was an English writer, novelist and poet. She wrote around 20 books, but was best-known for her short stories and novels.Her parents were Wilfrid and Alice Meynell...

 and Francis Meynell
Francis Meynell
Sir Francis Meredith Wilfrid Meynell was a British poet and printer at The Nonesuch Press.He was son of the writer Alice Meynell, a suffragist and prominent Roman Catholic convert. Francis Meynell was brought in by George Lansbury to be business manager of the Daily Herald in 1913. He was...

, that Kilmer seems to have become interested in Catholicism. Kilmer wrote of his influences:
"I have come to regard them with intense admiration. Patmore seems to me to be a greater poet than Francis Thompson. He has not the rich vocabulary, the decorative erudition, the Shelleyan enthusiasm, which distinguish the 'Sister Songs' and the 'Hound of Heaven,' but he has a classical simplicity, a restraint and sincerity which make his poems satisfying."


Because he was initially raised Episcopalian
Anglicanism
Anglicanism is a tradition within Christianity comprising churches with historical connections to the Church of England or similar beliefs, worship and church structures. The word Anglican originates in ecclesia anglicana, a medieval Latin phrase dating to at least 1246 that means the English...

 (or Anglican), Kilmer became literary editor of the Anglican weekly, The Churchman, before his conversion to Catholicism
Catholicism
Catholicism is a broad term for the body of the Catholic faith, its theologies and doctrines, its liturgical, ethical, spiritual, and behavioral characteristics, as well as a religious people as a whole....

. During this time he did considerable research into 16th and 17th century Anglican poets as well as metaphysical, or mystic poets of that time, including George Herbert
George Herbert
George Herbert was a Welsh born English poet, orator and Anglican priest.Being born into an artistic and wealthy family, he received a good education that led to his holding prominent positions at Cambridge University and Parliament. As a student at Trinity College, Cambridge, Herbert excelled in...

, Thomas Traherne
Thomas Traherne
Thomas Traherne, MA was an English poet and religious writer. His style is often considered Metaphysical.-Life:...

, Robert Herrick
Robert Herrick (poet)
Robert Herrick was a 17th-century English poet.-Early life:Born in Cheapside, London, he was the seventh child and fourth son of Julia Stone and Nicholas Herrick, a prosperous goldsmith....

, Bishop Coxe, and Robert Stephen Hawker
Robert Stephen Hawker
Robert Stephen Hawker was an Anglican priest, poet, antiquarian of Cornwall and reputed eccentric. He is best known as the writer of The Song of the Western Men with its chorus line of And shall Trelawny die? / Here's twenty thousand Cornish men / will know the reason why!, which he published...

, the Vicar of Morwenstow, the latter whom he referred to as "a coast life-guard in a cassock." These poets also had an influence on Kilmer's writings.

Critics compared Kilmer to British Catholic writers Hilaire Belloc and G. K. Chesterton, suggesting that his reputation might have risen to the level where he would have been considered their American counterpart if not for his untimely death.

Honors and awards

Several municipalities across the United States have named parks, schools, streets and squares in honor of Joyce Kilmer, including his hometown of New Brunswick, New Jersey
New Brunswick, New Jersey
New Brunswick is a city in Middlesex County, New Jersey, USA. It is the county seat and the home of Rutgers University. The city is located on the Northeast Corridor rail line, southwest of Manhattan, on the southern bank of the Raritan River. At the 2010 United States Census, the population of...

, which renamed Codwise Avenue, the street on which he was born, "Joyce Kilmer Avenue". In 2007, the city also hosted a Kilmer conference.

The Fighting 69th

In the 1940 film, The Fighting 69th directed by William Keighley and starring James Cagney
James Cagney
James Francis Cagney, Jr. was an American actor, first on stage, then in film, where he had his greatest impact. Although he won acclaim and major awards for a wide variety of performances, he is best remembered for playing "tough guys." In 1999, the American Film Institute ranked him eighth...

, Kilmer is depicted as a minor character played by actor Jeffrey Lynn
Jeffrey Lynn
Jeffrey Lynn was an American actor.Born Ragnar Lind in Auburn, Massachusetts, Lynn was a school teacher before he began his acting career. He came to Hollywood and made his film debut in Out Where the Stars Begin...

 (1909–1995).

Camp Kilmer

Camp Kilmer
Camp Kilmer
Camp Kilmer, New Jersey is a former United States Army camp that was activated in June 1942 as a staging area and part of an installation of the New York Port of Embarkation. The camp was organized as part of the Army Service Forces Transportation Corps. Troops were quartered at Camp Kilmer in...

, opened in 1942 in what is now Edison, New Jersey
Edison, New Jersey
Edison Township is a township in Middlesex County, New Jersey. What is now Edison Township was originally incorporated as Raritan Township by an Act of the New Jersey Legislature on March 17, 1870, from portions of both Piscataway Township and Woodbridge Township...

, an embarkation center for soldiers going to the European theatre during World War II. A small area of the original Camp ultimately remained as a US Army Reserve Center, which finally closed in 2009 as a result of the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) process. Some of the original camp buildings and warehouses remain elsewhere on the former Camp area, which is now the location of the Livingston campus of Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey where a library is named after him.

Joyce Kilmer Park

Joyce Kilmer Park, is located along the west side of the Grand Concourse
Grand Concourse (Bronx)
The Grand Concourse is a major thoroughfare in the borough of the Bronx in New York City...

 in The Bronx
The Bronx
The Bronx is the northernmost of the five boroughs of New York City. It is also known as Bronx County, the last of the 62 counties of New York State to be incorporated...

, with a view westward of nearby Yankee Stadium
Yankee Stadium
Yankee Stadium was a stadium located in The Bronx in New York City, New York. It was the home ballpark of the New York Yankees from 1923 to 1973 and from 1976 to 2008. The stadium hosted 6,581 Yankees regular season home games during its 85-year history. It was also the former home of the New York...

.

Joyce Kilmer Square

Joyce Kilmer Square, is located along both Kings Hwy. and Quentin Road at East 12th Street in Brooklyn
Brooklyn
Brooklyn is the most populous of New York City's five boroughs, with nearly 2.6 million residents, and the second-largest in area. Since 1896, Brooklyn has had the same boundaries as Kings County, which is now the most populous county in New York State and the second-most densely populated...

. It is under the jurisdiction of the city Department of Parks and Recreation, and features a flapole, benches and a memorial to Kilmer.

Joyce Kilmer Middle School

Joyce Kilmer Middle School
Joyce Kilmer Middle School
Joyce Kilmer Middle School is a school in the Fairfax County Public Schools System in unincorporated Fairfax County, Virginia, United States, east of the city of Vienna. Kilmer serves grades 7-8. It was named after the journalist and poet Joyce Kilmer...

, in Fairfax County, Virginia
Fairfax County, Virginia
Fairfax County is a county in Virginia, in the United States. Per the 2010 Census, the population of the county is 1,081,726, making it the most populous jurisdiction in the Commonwealth of Virginia, with 13.5% of Virginia's population...

, is named after him.

Joyce Kilmer Middle School, in Milltown, New Jersey
Milltown, New Jersey
Milltown is a Borough in Middlesex County, New Jersey, United States. As of the 2010 United States Census, the borough population was 6,893.Milltown was incorporated as a borough by an Act of the New Jersey Legislature on January 29, 1889, from portions of North Brunswick Township, based on the...

, is also named for him. Each year at the Arbor Day
Arbor Day
Arbor Day is a holiday in which individuals and groups are encouraged to plant and care for trees. It originated in Nebraska City, Nebraska, United States during 1872 by J. Sterling Morton. The first Arbor Day was held on April 10, 1872, and an estimated 1 million trees were planted that day.Many...

 ceremony his famous poem "Trees" is read.

Joyce Kilmer Memorial Fireplace

Joyce Kilmer Memorial Fireplace - The large stone fireplace was erected in Como Park in St. Paul, MN in 1936 in memory of Kilmer. A nearby sunken pool with miniature waterfalls, also named for Kilmer, no longer exists. Until recently, the fireplace was in a state of disrepair, but in 2011 underwent cleaning and restoration to its original condition. Kilmer was honored by St. Paul Parks Superintendent W. Lamont Kauffman, who was a charter member of the Joyce Kilmer post of the American Legion.

Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest

The Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest
Nantahala National Forest
The Nantahala National Forest, established in 1920, is a national forest located in the American state of North Carolina. The word "Nantahala" is a Cherokee word meaning "Land of the Noonday Sun." The name is appropriate as, in some spots, the sun only reaches the floors of the deep gorges of the...

 (17,394 acres/15 km²) located in the Nantahala National Forest
Nantahala National Forest
The Nantahala National Forest, established in 1920, is a national forest located in the American state of North Carolina. The word "Nantahala" is a Cherokee word meaning "Land of the Noonday Sun." The name is appropriate as, in some spots, the sun only reaches the floors of the deep gorges of the...

, near Robbinsville
Robbinsville, North Carolina
Robbinsville is a town in Graham County, North Carolina, United States. The population was 747 at the 2000 census. It is the county seat of Graham County. Robbinsville High School is the only high school in Graham County...

 in Graham County, North Carolina
Graham County, North Carolina
-Demographics:As of the census of 2000, there were 7,993 people, 3,354 households, and 2,411 families residing in the county. The population density was 27 people per square mile . There were 5,084 housing units at an average density of 17 per square mile...

 was dedicated in Kilmer's memory on July 10, 1936.

Kilmer Triangle

The Rogers Park community in Chicago, IL have named a triangle medium located at the intersection of Birchwood Ave., Rogers Ave., and Ashland Ave. after him. The site has a World War I memorial plaque mounted onto a large boulder. A task force of residents of Rogers Park renovated the triangle in 2009 to include new landscaping and a solitary tree in the center.

Kilmer Service Area

The state of New Jersey
New Jersey
New Jersey is a state in the Northeastern and Middle Atlantic regions of the United States. , its population was 8,791,894. It is bordered on the north and east by the state of New York, on the southeast and south by the Atlantic Ocean, on the west by Pennsylvania and on the southwest by Delaware...

 and the New Jersey Turnpike Authority
New Jersey Turnpike Authority
The New Jersey Turnpike Authority is a state agency responsible for maintaining the New Jersey Turnpike and the Garden State Parkway...

 have named a service area on the New Jersey Turnpike
New Jersey Turnpike
The New Jersey Turnpike is a toll road in New Jersey, maintained by the New Jersey Turnpike Authority. According to the International Bridge, Tunnel and Turnpike Association, the Turnpike is the nation's sixth-busiest toll road and is among one of the most heavily traveled highways in the United...

, located in East Brunswick Township after him.

Joyce Kilmer Elementary School, Illinois

In the Rogers Park community of Chicago, Illinois, he has a school named after him, the Joyce Kilmer Elementary School.

An additional Joyce Kilmer Elementary School , opened in 1966, is in Buffalo Grove, Illinois. It is part of Community Consolidated School District No. 21 in Wheeling Township, Illinois. It feeds James Fenimore Cooper Middle School, also in Buffalo Grove.

Joyce Kilmer Elementary School, New Jersey

The town of Mahwah, New Jersey
Mahwah, New Jersey
Mahwah is a township in Bergen County, New Jersey, United States. As of the 2010 United States Census, the township population was 25,890. The name Mahwah is derived from the Lenni Lenape word "mawewi" which means "Meeting Place" or "Place Where Paths Meet".The area that is now Mahwah was...

, which was Kilmer's home from about 1913 to the end of his life, has a school named after him, the Joyce Kilmer Elementary School. Nobody's Inn, a bar and grill at 150 Franklin Turnpike in Mahwah (next to the Erie-Lackawanna railroad tracks about 0.7 miles from the border of Suffern, New York
Suffern, New York
Suffern is a village in the Town of Ramapo, Rockland County, New York, United States located north of the State of New Jersey; east of Hillburn; south of Montebello and west of Airmont...

), which closed in 2002, was widely believed to occupy the house that inspired Kilmer's poem, "The House with Nobody In It." The poem begins, "Whenever I walk to Suffern along the Erie track / I go by a poor old farmhouse with its shingles broken and black."

A Joyce Kilmer Elementary School is located in Trenton, New Jersey, as a part of the Trenton Public Schools district, and in the Borough of Milltown, New Jersey.

Another Joyce Kilmer Elementary School is located in Cherry Hill, New Jersey.

Joyce Kilmer Elementary School, West Roxbury, Mass.

The Joyce Kilmer K-8 School in West Roxbury, Massachusetts
West Roxbury, Massachusetts
West Roxbury is a neighborhood in Boston bordered by Roslindale to the north, the Town of Dedham to the east and south, the Town of Brookline and the City of Newton to the west. Many people mistakenly confuse West Roxbury with Roxbury, but the two are not connected. West Roxbury is separated from...

 (formerly Joyce Kilmer Elementary) is named in his honor.

Joyce Kilmer Memorial Bad Poetry Contest

  • The Philolexian Society
    Philolexian Society
    The Philolexian Society of Columbia University is one of the oldest college literary societies in the United States, and the oldest student group at Columbia...

     of Columbia University
    Columbia University
    Columbia University in the City of New York is a private, Ivy League university in Manhattan, New York City. Columbia is the oldest institution of higher learning in the state of New York, the fifth oldest in the United States, and one of the country's nine Colonial Colleges founded before the...

    , a collegiate literary society of which Kilmer was vice president, holds the annual Alfred Joyce Kilmer Memorial Bad Poetry Contest in his honor.

Joyce Kilmer Tree (Central Park, New York)

There is a tree with a plaque in Central Park. The plaque reads:

IN MEMORIAM/Sergeant Joyce Kilmer/"Poet of the Trees"/Killed in Action - Bois-Colas/July 30, 1918

The tree is located east of Center Drive at about 67th Street. The plaque is in the ground on a concrete base and is visible from the walk looking east over the fence. The location is near several other memorials related to World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

. On the west side of the walk trees were planted in 1919 by Albert King of the Belgians
Albert I of Belgium
Albert I reigned as King of the Belgians from 1909 until 1934.-Early life:Born Albert Léopold Clément Marie Meinrad in Brussels, he was the fifth child and second son of Prince Philippe, Count of Flanders, and his wife, Princess Marie of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen...

, Gen. John J. Pershing
John J. Pershing
John Joseph "Black Jack" Pershing, GCB , was a general officer in the United States Army who led the American Expeditionary Forces in World War I...

 and the Prince of Wales (Edward VIII)
Edward VIII of the United Kingdom
Edward VIII was King of the United Kingdom and the Dominions of the British Commonwealth, and Emperor of India, from 20 January to 11 December 1936.Before his accession to the throne, Edward was Prince of Wales and Duke of Cornwall and Rothesay...

. North of the latter a tree was planted by his grandfather Edward VII
Edward VII of the United Kingdom
Edward VII was King of the United Kingdom and the British Dominions and Emperor of India from 22 January 1901 until his death in 1910...

 in 1860 when he was Prince of Wales. That tree is no longer there. Farther north on Flagpole Hill is a memorial to City Employees erected 1926. On the far side of the mall is an entire grove of trees and plaques for the companies of the 307th Infantry of the 77 Division A.E.F. Due east, outside the wall of the park on Fifth Avenue is a memorial to the 107th Infantry Regiment. In fact it is fair to say that Kilmer's tree is in the center of these memorials.

Works

  • Summer of Love. (New York: Baker and Taylor, 1911).
  • Trees and Other Poems. (New York: Doubleday Doran and Co., 1914).
  • The Circus and Other Essays. (New York: Lawrence J. Gomme, 1916).
  • Main Street and Other Poems. (New York: George H. Doran, 1917).
  • The Courage of Enlightenment. An address delivered in Campion College
    Campion College
    Campion College is an Australian Roman Catholic dedicated Liberal Arts college. It is a located at Austin Woodbury Place, Old Toongabbie in the western suburbs of Sydney, approximately 45 minutes from the central business district of Sydney, Australia. It is the first tertiary educational Liberal...

    , Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin, to the members of the graduating class, 15 June 1917. (Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin: 1917).
  • Dreams and Images: An Anthology of Catholic Poets. (ed. by Joyce Kilmer). (New York: Boni and Liveright, 1917).
  • Literature in the Making by some of its Makers. (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1917).
  • Poems, Essays and Letters in Two Volumes. Robert Cortes Holliday (ed.). (Volume One: Memoir and Poems, Volume Two: Prose Works) (New York: George H. Doran, 1918 - published posthumously).
  • The Circus and Other Essays and Fugitive Pieces. (New York: George H. Doran, 1921 - published posthumously).

External links

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