Today is officially Earth Day and many people also celebrate Arbor Day sometime during the month of April. And although there is an abundance of nature poetry for children available, I think it would be appropriate to focus on TREES, in particular. Living on the prairie in Texas, I’m a big fan of trees, since we don’t have many. I was a tree climber as a kid and a tree planter as an adult. And there are many poems about trees to share with young people beginning with Joyce Kilmer’s classic, “Trees” which begins “I think that I shall never see/ A poem lovely as a tree.”
In fact, once I started looking, I found that many of my favorite poems were about trees, from David McCord’s “Every Time I Climb a Tree” to “Arbol de Limon/ Lemon Tree” by Jennifer Clement and translated by Consuelo de Aerenlund, presented in both English and Spanish (in Naomi Nye's anthology). Here’s a poem by Karla Kuskin that is also a fine example of “concrete” or “shape” poetry in which the words of the poem also suggest the shape of the poem’s subject.
If you stood with your feet in the earth
Up to your ankles in grass
And your arms had leaves running over them
And every once in awhile one of your leafy fingers
Was nudged by a bird flying past,
If the skin that covers you from top to tip
Wasn’t skin at all, but bark
And you never moved your feet from their place
In the earth
But stood rooted in one spot come
Then you would be me:
Kuskin, Karla. 1972. Any Me I Want to Be. Harper & Row.
For more “tree” poems, look for these anthologies:
Brenner, Barbara. 1994. The Earth is Painted Green: A Garden of Poems about Our Planet. Scholastic.
Bruchac. Joseph. 1995. The Earth Under Sky Bear's Feet: Native American Poems of the Land. Philomel Books.
Fisher, Aileen. 2003. Sing of the Earth and Sky: Poems about Our Planet and the Wonders Beyond. Wordsong/Boyds Mills Press.
George, Kristine O’Connell. 1998. Old Elm Speaks: Tree Poems. Clarion Books.
Greenfield, Eloise. 1988. Under the Sunday Tree. Harper & Row.
Gunning, Monica. 1998. Under the Breadfruit Tree: Island Poems. Wordsong/Boyds Mills Press.
Jones, Hettie, comp. 1971. The Tree Stands Shining: Poetry of the North American Indian. Dial Books.
Kuskin, Karla. 1980. Dogs and Dragons, Trees and Dreams: A Collection of Poems. HarperCollins.
Kuskin, Karla. 1975. Near the Window Tree. Harper.
Levy, Constance. 1994. A Tree Place and Other Poems. McElderry.
Lindbergh, Reeve. 1990. Johnny Appleseed. Joy Street Books.
McCord, David. 1999. Every Time I Climb a Tree. Little Brown.
Nye, Naomi Shihab, comp. 1995. The Tree is Older than You Are: A Bilingual Gathering of Poems and Stories from Mexico with Paintings by Mexican Artists. Simon & Schuster.
Singer, Marilyn. 2002. Footprints on the Roof: Poems About the Earth. Knopf.
Yolen, Jane. 2000. Color Me a Rhyme: Nature Poems for Young People. Wordsong/Boyds Mills Press.
And of course this begs for a poet-tree display! Create a paper tree trunk and branches and encourage children to choose their favorite poems to display on large green paper leaves hanging from the branches.
Picture credit: www.phong.com