What Is the Meaning of the Poem “Trees” by Joyce Kilmer?

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The poem “Trees” by Joyce Kilmer is a celebration of the author’s religious faith and the world’s natural beauty, according to a biography of the author by the Poetry Foundation. Kilmer uses anthropomorphism to depict trees with human attributes to make the descriptions more recognizable to readers. She uses basic iambic tetrameter to make the poem conform to the poetic style of the era in which it was written.

Writer and literary critic Mark Royden Winchell stated that the poem personifies trees in a number of different ways. It compares a tree to a baby drawing nourishment from the Earth, a devotee lifting arms in prayer, a woman wearing an ornament in her hair and a solitary woman communing with God. It is not clear in the poem whether these descriptions are of one tree or different trees.

The first publication of “Trees” was in the August 1913 issue of Poetry Magazine. Since then, “Trees” has been a favorite of schoolteachers when assigning poetry memorization and recitation. Institutions from a number of locations that the author visited have claimed that specific trees inspired the poem. However, the author’s son, Kenton Kilmer, wrote that there was not a particular tree in mind when the poem was written; instead, the poem was an expression of the author’s affection for trees in general. It was written in Mahwah, New Jersey, at a family home with a view that looked out over a wooded hill.