Poetry Slow Down, our episode this week begins a series wherein we embark on ancient ships and rocky land routes to engage with trees, as people have always done, and I mean always. Since recorded history, our first forays into writing down what’s in our human brains have been records of talks with trees. Gilgamesh, Greek mythology, the Bible, Mohammed, Pliny the Elder, Caesar, Tolkien, King Arthur, Shakespeare, Alice Walker: the list is long, surprising, star-studded, and global. Now science is saying that trees do talk (for example, Peter Wohlleben, The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Fell, How They Communicate,a bestseller in many countries—and his wife told him to write it, I’m just sayin). And Michael Pollan’s The Botany of Desire: A Plant’s-Eye View of the World, another best-seller. Yet poets have ever said so: how trees talk to us, not just to each other. We hear them in words. We hear them in poems. In our episode, we review the world over for the cases in which trees are recorded in history and literature of actually breaking into conversations, weeping when being left out, and needing to be consoled, and giving gritty and divine advice and healing love. We recall how in Steven Sondheim’s Into the WoodsCinderella “asks the tree” (whom her mother has become) for advice. In our next show, we’ll look at more of these stories about us talking to trees (Clint Eastwood “I Talk to the Trees”), and trees talking to us and what poets make of them, from Rilke and Alice Walker to John Muir and John Steinbeck, and the myths and religions that wrap around these events of tree-human relations. Then we’ll consider poets who wonder in what ways trees are human, and we are trees, and what happens to each of us when we’re cut down (Mars?). Trees, it seems, are inextricable from how we understand not only our human fate, but our actual humanity in the first place. Join me on this journey—you’ll be surprised (I am) and slowed down, way down—you know you move too fast!
Write me at Barbara.firstname.lastname@example.org for your own story of your encounter with a tree. What has a tree said to YOU? You’re not alone. We’ll all in this together!
© Barbara Mossberg 2019