Someone--I forget whom--once said that there are two ways to hate poetry. One is simply to hate it. The other, according to the wag, was to read Alexander Pope.
I would agree that there's no hope in Pope. But even he couldn't do the sort of damage Joyce Kilmer caused. After reading Kilmer, you might find yourself hating trees as well as poetry:
I think that I shall never see
A poem as 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 arms to pray;
A tree that may in summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;
Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who ultimately lives with rain.
Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.
After that last stanza, is it any wonder that it's so difficult for a poet to get a grant, much less to sell volumes or his or her works?
It just figures that Kilmer attended the school from which I got my B.A.: Rutgers. But, interestingly enough, he dropped out after his sophomore year because he couldn't pass their required math courses. Then he transferred to, and graduated from, Columbia. (So much for the superiority of the Ivy League, right?)
Kilmer and his poem are like one of those awful songs from some absolutely wretched band that gets under your skin and circulates through your body and mind no matter how hard you try to get rid of it. And "Trees" came back to me when I saw this yesterday:
Such a classically autumnal arbortoreal form can make even an industrial-style campus that was built during the post-industrial era, like that of my main job, seem like a New England idyll. Marianela, my old LeTour III, felt right at home in it:
She, at least, resists comparisons to trees. For that matter, so do Arielle, Tosca and Helene, my other bikes.
Perhaps I've been too hard on Kilmer. After all, it is pretty difficult to make something that's about a tree yet more, or at least as, beautiful. I've tried, and I know I've failed to do that.
Here's something that depicts a tree and is quite lovely, if in an unexpected way and place:
I feel that it's the most beautiful coin ever produced in this country. Maybe if I had too much time and money on my hands, I'd try to enlarge it enough to use as a front wheel. It's certainly more attractive than those carbon-fiber tri-spoke wheels!