Editor’s Note: Some of the best work Tweetspeak has to offer is regularly set aside as thanks to our Patrons, whose generosity helps us bring kindness, friendship, and simply rich living to the world. That includes “Poems to Listen By” an audio series where, over time, we will explore some of the themes in the Poet Laura checklist, as well as Tweetspeak’s “Year of Wisdom” theme coming in 2020.
Today, we hope you’ll enjoy this first installment as our gift to you in this holiday season—a piece that ordinarily would have been for patrons only.
Poems to Listen By: Sharing the Canopy: 8 Ways Trees Embody Our Stories—Under the Black Oaks. Presented by Laurie Klein
From seed to sapling, from leafy crown to taproot, from understory to back story (and beyond!), trees—and tree poems—may enchant and mystify as well as delight us.
Take the chestnut, for example. Poet Pablo Neruda once compared the seed’s mahogany sheen to a violin newly born in the treetops, falling to earth as a way to offer the gifts locked inside it.
I love that image. Neruda’s whimsical violin metaphor—like poetry itself—promises riches untold. It’s the polar opposite of Chicken Little’s shrill, one-note warning: “The sky is falling, the sky is falling!”
Bearing these two different energies in mind, listen to this poem. You might hear a dash of mischief alongside musings—and unexpected music!—as poet Stephen Dunn moves his lawn chair . . . and, in so doing, becomes the understory.
[“Under the Black Oaks” poem]
Photo by Jan Tik, Creative Commons license via Flickr. “Under the Black Oaks” used with permission of the poet. Audio and script by Laurie Klein with thanks to Pat Stien for direction and Bill Klein for engineering and music from his solo album, “Lauda.”
Neruda, Pablo, ”Ode to a Chestnut on the Ground,” in Full Woman, Fleshly Apple, Hot Moon: Selected Poems of Pablo Neruda / translated by Stephen Mitchell (New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers, Inc., 1997), 39.
Write a poem about being the “understory,” beneath either a forest or a single tree. What kind of forest? Or, what kind of tree is it? Are you alone? What do you hear, see, taste, feel? Consider researching a little about your chosen forest or tree, to give us some unexpected details and help us really see and feel your understory experience.