Kilmer’s “Trees” and Nash’s Parody

In his poem “Trees”, made up of twelve lines of rhyming couplets (see here). Joyce Kilmer talks about the inability of art to replicate the beauty achieved by nature.
Its seemingly simple rhyme scheme and meter, along with the choice of unpretentious metaphors, are easy to mimic and many writers have parodied it, above all after Kilmer’s reputation declined when tastes changed and modernist poet ascended.

Every year, since 1986, Columbia University’s Philolexian Society hosts the “Alfred Joyce Kilmer Memorial Bad Poetry Contest”.
That society is one of the oldest college literary and debating group in the United States and its name derives from the Greek word Philolexia which means “love of discourse”.
When at Columbia University, Kilmer (who graduated in 1908) was vice-president of that society, as well as associate editor of the campus newspaper, and member of the Debating Union.
At the end of the annual competition, where participants contend for the title of the worst bad poem. attendees join in reciting Kilmer’s famous and critically despised poem.

Some critics say Kilmer is what a “good bad poet” as George Orwell defined Kipling in an essay on him.
On the other end, Oscar Wilde also said that “all bad poetry springs from genuine feeling.”

Anyway, if parody is flattery, “Trees” had many admirers.
One of the best-known parodies is “Song of the Open Road” by American humourist and poet Ogden Nash (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.

Non credo che vedrò mai
un cartellone bello come un albero.
Anzi, a meno che i cartelloni non cadano,
non riuscirò mai a vedere un albero.

41 thoughts on “Kilmer’s “Trees” and Nash’s Parody

  1. Luisa ti sei truccata! sembri una ragazzina, un albero che spunta gemme (andamento climatico lo consente!). Ma veramente da me non si possono fare commenti….eppure io li ho visti e dice pure pending (gerundio di cosa?)

    Liked by 2 people

  2. E tu hai scelto una foto che rende onore a questa poesia. Un intrigo di rami che narra della nostra vita, meglio e più di ogni cartellone pubblicitario che si vuole arrogare il diritto di capire il nostro modo di vivere e di convincerci a vivere come lui sottintende.

    Liked by 3 people

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