Joyce Kilmer (full name: Alfred Joyce Kilmer, December 6, 1886 – July 30, 1918) was an American journalist and poet; his best-known work is "Trees". The poem is notable for its anthropomorphism: the tree in the poem presses its mouth to the earth's breast and looks at God and raises its leafy arms to pray. The poem was given a musical setting that was quite popular in the 1940s and 1950s.
Kilmer was born in New Brunswick, New Jersey and attended Rutgers College and Columbia (B.A., 1908). His wife was Aline Murray. He was a soldier in the United States Army 165th Infantry, Rainbow Division and was killed in action by a sniper during World War I. His body is buried in the Oise-Aisne Cemetery, Fere-en-Tardenois, France.
The Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest which is approximately 3,800 acres (15 km²) of old growth forest is located in the Nantahala National Forest under the management of the USDA Forest Service in Graham County, North Carolina. This forest was purchased by the US government in order to stop extensive over-logging in the area and dedicated to Kilmer's memory on July 10, 1936. It has some of the largest trees east of the Mississippi, and includes the Slickrock Wilderness Area.
He currently has a street named after him in New Brunswick, New Jersey, as well as many schools in New Jersey, Virginia, Indiana and Wisconsin, most of which were built during the period his poem was famous. The New Jersey Turnpike has a rest area named after him.
- I think that I shall never see
- A poem lovely as a tree.
- A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
- Against the sweet earth's flowing breast;
- A tree that looks at God all day,
- And lifts her leafy arms to pray;
- A tree that may in summer wear
- A nest of robins in her hair;
- Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
- Who intimately lives with rain.
- Poems are made by fools like me,
- But only God can make a tree.