Today we are continuing our series of pages publishing the winning and highly commended poems in the People Need Nature/Young Poets Network “Ways to be Wilder” poetry competition, hosted by the Young Poets Network. We are also publishing judge Jen Hadfield’s notes on the poems.
This is one of the highly commended poems.
Tree Talk by Francesca Weekes (16)
We are taller than your most extravagant tales.
A drawn-out note on a mellowed cello
Describes our skin,
Our bark, roughened under wind and sun
Ripples more slowly than the eye can follow.
We are water, wood, sunlight;
We are tree.
We sense everything:
The languid pop of mushrooms at our roots,
The prickle of new leaves stiffening on our branches,
The gentle soothing of rain on our dry, cracked skin.
You do not see our movements, but
We are every bit as alive as fire, as the sky.
When we are angered, you feel our wrath.
The death of one of us is
A sudden numbing of the nerves
In a part of our greater body.
A forest is not easy to kill.
Jen Hadfield’s comments:
The stop-motion slowed-down-ness of this poem is so very generous: how sensually you’ve inhabited the forest. In ‘100 Differences Between Poetry and Prose’, Tom Leonard described poetry as ‘the juiciest bits in the juiciest order.’ You might now prune this poem very gently, very carefully, like a tree-surgeon, making sure every line and image is true to tree. You could take a look at the last line too. Since you’re speaking about the near-immortality of the forest, can you end your poem in a less final way?