POETRY WORKSHOP: “LOVELY AS A TREE”
WHEN: Thursday, December 13, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Suitable for all levels.
WHERE: D&R Greenway’s Johnson Education Center, 1 Preservation Place, Princeton
ADMISSION: Workshop is free, but registration required: firstname.lastname@example.org. 609-924-4646
Nature, art and poetry come together in a Poetry Workshop offered by D&R Greenway Land Trust with Poet Maxine Susman. Drawing upon sample nature poems and from the art exhibit ‘Lovely As a Tree’ on the surrounding walls, participants will be able to write and share original poems or a short personal essay inspired by poetry and the natural world. Tap into the roots and branches of your creativity!
Among the most iconic poems about nature, ‘Trees’ by Joyce Kilmer, is one that many generations learned to recite in school. The first two lines of the poem, oft-repeated, are well-known, “I think that I shall never see, a poem lovely as a tree.” D&R Greenway named its new art exhibit, ‘Lovely as a Tree’ after these famous lines. The connection of trees, nature and poetry will be explored and celebrated in the upcoming workshop led by ‘Cool Women’ poet Maxine Susmann.
“Poetry starts as a basic urge—to express ourselves in words,” says Susman. “Writing about nature, we bring the outside into ourselves; we can find solace, wonder, and joy; and we can reflect upon how to care for and preserve the more-than-human world.”
A native of New Jersey who attended Rutgers University, Kilmer wrote the poem ‘Trees’ on February 2, 1913. Kilmer’s oldest son, Kenton, told of its origin, “It was written in the afternoon in the intervals of some other writing. The desk was in an upstairs room, by a window looking down a wooded hill.” Speaking of his father’s inspiration, he says, “Mother and I agreed, when we talked about it, that Dad never meant his poem to apply to one particular tree, or to the trees of any special region. Just any trees or all trees that might be rained on or snowed on, and that would be suitable nesting places for robins.”
Trees, in fact, are living statuary in the landscape that provide both aesthetics and function. They take in carbon dioxide and release oxygen into the air, providing humans with “fresh air” to breathe. Their shade on a summer’s day is a welcome respite, saving up to 25% in energy costs due to natural cooling. Trees provide a home for wildlife and food and medicines for people. They improve water quality by filtering run-off from impacting streams and rivers. Their beauty is free for all to enjoy; who has not been awed by gold, orange and red leaves on an autumn day!
Reflecting on the title of the exhibit that will inspire the workshop writing, Susman says, “Did you know that Joyce Kilmer died a hero in World War I, just a few months before the Armistice, and left a wife and five kids?”
An apt personal connection to Kilmer was discovered by D&R Greenway President and CEO Linda Mead. “A couple of years ago, I visited our Woodens Lane Preserve in West Amwell to meet with volunteers who were helping to steward the land,” she says. “As I talked with our volunteers, I learned that one young man was a great-grandson of Joyce Kilmer. There he stood, with a shovel in his hand, planting a tree!”
Maxine Susman writes about nature, art, history and shifting states of body and mind. She has published six poetry collections, most recently Provincelands set on Cape Cod, and her work appears widely in New Jersey and national poetry journals. She teaches poetry writing and short story classes at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute of Rutgers University, where she earned the Distinguished Teaching Award, and where she will teach an environmental writing course in the spring. She is a member of the Cool Women poetry performance group.
D&R Greenway Land Trust has hosted numerous poetry walks and readings. The nonprofit organization led the preservation of Greenway Meadows park that surrounds the Johnson Education Center and is home to the Scott & Hella McVay Poetry Trail.