Poets Have a Tree Fetish – Reading Aloud Project, Richard Aldington

English: Trees at the Joyce Kilmer Memorial Fo...
Trees at the Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest in Graham County, North Carolina, USA. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I keep getting this poet’s name confused in my head with Edwin Arlington Robinson. Richard Aldington–Arlington Robinson, I suppose there is similarity there, especially since it seems Richard Aldington’s middle name just happens to be Edward. But I think the confusion also comes from having read a poem by Robinson back in April here on the Dad Poet, called “Another Dark Lady.” That one was about beech trees, and beech trees show up in the end of this poem, though you might confuse it with “beaches” if you are just listening and not reading the words yourself.

Robert Frost wrote about Christmas trees, and apple trees. He wrote “a young beech clinging to its last year’s leaves.” He also wrote about “Birches.” He wrote, “The woods are lovely, dark, and deep.” The woods are called woods because they have trees. Poets like trees.

Wordsworth wrote about “Yew-Trees;” Edna St. Vincent Millay wrote of “City Trees.” Joyce Kilmer never saw a poem lovelier than a tree. I read another poem back in April by contemporary poet, Tony Hoagland, “The Color of the Sky,” in which he said that the trees were tossing about “in what certainly looks like sexual arousal.” Poets really like trees.

Sure we like paper clips, and baseball and flowers too. But baseball bats are made from trees. Paper clips hold paper which, you guessed it, is made from trees. And even in poems about flowers, can’t you just see yourself looking up from the lily of the field to what borders the field, what in fact make the field a field, that row of trees, the forest just a short jaunt away?

Poets are obsessed with trees. You can read more tree poems by clicking here, and here.

This week’s poet for John’s “Reading Out Loud Project” is so fascinated by one tree in particular, a Poplar, that he imagines it uprooting itself to go walking, “behind the wagoners” along the path. Poplars, Birches, Beeches, Willows, poets seem to really be turned on by trees. Why is that? Feel free to speculate in the comments, or remind us of other tree poems that maybe you didn’t find in the links above.

Here’s the lowdown on how this project of John’s works:

What I propose is this: a weekly poem, and a variety of readings.  I’ll post the poem each Friday (along with my reading), and, sometime during the following week, I ask you to make your own reading, and submit it to me.  You can do an audio recording, upload it somewhere (i.e. Soundcloud, or to your own blog’s Media Library — if you have the upgrade).  Or, if you’re so inclined, you can make a video of  your reading — with, or without your lovely face being in the video, and upload it to YouTube, and then send me the link (You can leave the links in the comment section — or, email them to me at poetjay1966@gmail.com)

And there you have it. To hear John’s reading, after recording your own, which you should also do before you listen to mine (so as not to be influenced by the way we hear it), go to Poetically Versed, and leave your the link to your recording in the comments there, or email him as he suggested. I think you’ll find yourself enjoying John’s refreshing style of discussing poetry. Nothing stuffy or pretentious about John’s poetry blog, hence it’s one of my absolute favorites.

So now for my recording for this week:

By the way that’s little Mark Twain on the left side of your screen, helping me read this poem. According to The Autobiography of Mark Twain, by Charles Neider, Richard Aldington criticized Mark Twain as “not being very funny, or much of a writer.” And so Twain, I believe, is keeping a critical eye on Aldington here. Okay, seriously, I confess. It was just chance. My friend Rick, a huge library buff bought me that little Twain pillow at his recent library benefit sale. I kind of like it, but I can’t seem to tie it in with the tree theme.

The Poplar

by Richard Aldington

Why do you always stand there shivering
Between the white stream and the road?

The people pass through the dust
On bicycles, in carts, in motor-cars;
The waggoners go by at dawn;
The lovers walk on the grass path at night.

Stir from your roots, walk, poplar!
You are more beautiful than they are.

I know that the white wind loves you,
Is always kissing you and turning up
The white lining of your green petticoat.
The sky darts through you like blue rain,
And the grey rain drips on your flanks
And loves you.
And I have seen the moon
Slip his silver penny into your pocket
As you straightened your hair;
And the white mist curling and hesitating
Like a bashful lover about your knees.

I know you, poplar;
I have watched you since I was ten.
But if you had a little real love,
A little strength,
You would leave your nonchalant idle lovers
And go walking down the white road
Behind the waggoners.

There are beautiful beeches
Down beyond the hill.
Will you always stand there shivering?

22 Comments Add yours

  1. John says:

    You have such a wonderfully expressive face when you read … I love how your eyebrows raise when you read about the green petticoat!

    And, I like the commentary on trees … I’d noticed many poets write about trees, almost as if one must write a poem about a tree to be considered a serious poet. We even read about the Vulture Tree a few weeks ago, though that was more vulture than tree… but, still…

    I don’t know that I am someone who’d write about trees. As a photographer, I love taking photos of trees, and can understand their appeal … but, to me, they’re a visual subject, rather than a subject for words — though, poetry is a way to use words to make something visual appear in a reader’s mind.


    1. I am not sure that I have a complete tree poem, though a notebook of mine somewhere has a half written piece about a willow and the squirrels in it.

      I thank you again for your comments. I often wory that my expressions are too much.


    2. John! I finally got to sit down tonight, lay back and close my eyes and listen to you read again. Good god, man! The way you say, “Walk, Poplar!” Wow. You really are right about a different voice making a poem come alive in different ways, bringing out other nuances. There is something about the way you read this, that made it clear to me that not only do we imbue inanimate objects with our own emotions and traits, but I’m pretty damn sure that when Aldington wrote this he intended us to “get,” eventually, that the tree is fine as it is, and where it is. It is the POET, or more accurately the speaker in the poem who is having a hard time moving, getting involved in life. Instead he stands there, shivering. Is it cold, is it fear? The ambiguity implies many things, but doesn’t this just sound like the way we as people are, projecting onto the natural world our own weaknesses and fears? Wow, I didn’t sense all of that in my reading, but I got it from you and your voice, the way it carried in lines like:
      “I know you, poplar;
      I have watched you since I was ten.”

      Sorry, I had to leave this comment here since comments were already closed on this. I know I was out of the blogosphere for a couple of weeks, but I wanted to throw this offer out there, if you want to continue this project, but need some help, and would like me to pitch in from time to time with a lead poem, just let me know. Otherwise, be assured I will continue to participate, and look forward to the next one.


  2. John says:

    Reblogged this on Poetically Versed and commented:
    Some thoughts on poets and trees, and a reading of last week’s Reading Out Loud poem, The Popular.


  3. Anonymous says:

    Enjoyed reading about poets and trees..now I will watch the reading on YT….k


  4. I had to think long and hard about whether I’d written a tree poem but I found one! A humorous haiku on the end of the world caused by global warming…


    1. Haha, I’d like to read that!


  5. slpmartin says:

    Another marvelous reading…a fine way to start my day…thanks!


    1. You are too kind to me. Thank you, Charles!


  6. angryricky says:

    Someone once said that she believed that we all participated in the creation of the world, and that would explain why the sight of a seashell brought her to tears. I’ve always had a strong reaction to trees, and the post I wrote about them was Freshly Pressed, a year ago.


    1. Yes, I’ve been trying to think what it is about trees for me, and why I haven’t written much about them, though I have some half-written poems on that topic, and I write a lot about the woods, or poems where trees play a small part. There is an old Stafford poem about sitting up in a tree at dusk as a child, dish-washing noises tinkling below and the whole wide world beyond. . . That gets to me every time. It evokes something not just from childhood, but something that almost feels ancient in me.


    2. angryricky says:

      Ursula le Guin also has a major thing for trees, though she publishes primarily prose. I don’t often write about trees; it seems a love too deep for words. I sometimes think of myself as a tree, with leafy fingers and toe-roots. And I think of trees as men, breaking up the sidewalk more slowly but more effectively than a jackhammer. When I think of the hemlocks dying, I nearly cry.

      And don’t you mean Edwin, up there? 😉


    3. Edwin. Oops! Thanks for that. I’ll correct it. Hey, you kind of nailed it. I was afraid to say it for fear that nobody would understand: “I don’t often write about trees; it seems a love too deep for words.”


  7. ManicDdaily says:

    This is a lovely poem –thanks also for the links to other tree poems – I know how it feels–I have been so busy and though I get a lot of pleasure from blogging, life sometimes just has too much business. k.


    1. And sometimes it takes a bit of time to get the balance back. Getting there. Thanks! It was such a treat to catch up on your blog again too.


  8. claudia says:

    this is a cool project and a cool reading as well… you really have a good reading voice… i won’t give it a try..pssshh… it’s because of my german accent..smiles


    1. But the accent is part of the fun! 🙂 Listen back to one from a few weeks ago with Ygor’s Brazilian Portuguese accent. Just because CNN thinks that a “midwestern” US accent is the best, doesn’t mean the people actually do.


  9. Loved the poem and I loved the reading… Makes me want to write about trees 🙂 In fairness there is something amazing about them… The way they grow, How each type seems to have it’s own personality… Like all things but you know what I mean, They way they almost seem immortal until a lightning storm… Tree’s are wonderful and very worthy of being written about! 🙂


    1. I do agree with you. It’s hard to write about them when they are so integral to my life perhaps. I live in the middle of Penn’s Woods after all! I did a William Stafford reading at the gallery last week and it touches on how I felt as a kid climbing trees. . .


    2. I would have to write about Willows… Oh christ… Gotta go… Had an idea!


    3. go, writer, go! 🙂


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