The “I,” the voice of the speaker of Adrienne Rich’s poem, “The Trees,” is a voice with a body engaged in activities and sensing intrusions that are not organic to the conventions of a nature poem. This is, in fact, an (un)natural poem that narrates the struggle of a population of trees to escape the confines of a greenhouse. In evoking the trees’ “strain,” the poem demonstrates the unsuitability of language itself as a greenhouse or container of nature. The speaker is a witness to the trees’ exodus, but distances herself from participating in the making of something out of the spectacle. She “sit[s]” and “writ[es]” but not poems, “long letters,” in which she “scarcely mention[s] the departure / of the forest.” Even though the speaker addresses an audience, her own “head is full of whispers”—she’s an audience as well.
We, however, the audience to the poem, are compelled by the command: “Listen.” The speaker reaches across the barrier between poem and audience, a transaction that occurs on a page, and says: Listen, you.
Adrienne Rich articulates her consciousness of the many levels of inner and outer and the blurring of the boundaries between them. The trees, “long-cramped… under the roof” are trying to get out while the speaker remains in the space the trees long to escape. An open door makes the “night” and the “whole moon” and the “sky” available to the speaker; at the same time, through this door “the smell of leaves… / still reaches” back in. The speaker’s “head” is another interior, implicitly entered by “whispers.”
The poetess is especially intrigued by her image of the trees “like newly discharged patients / half-dazed”. In addition, the speaker’s sense of her head “full of whispers,” occurring one verse later, links to these “discharged patients.” They’re patients of a mental hospital.
Trees are for birds.
Trees are for children.
Trees are to make tree houses in.
Trees are to swing swings on.
Trees are for the wind to blow through.
Trees are to hide behind in Hide and Seek.
Trees are to have tea parties under.
Trees are for kites to get caught in.
Trees are to make cool shade in summer.
Trees are to make no shade in winter.
Trees are for apples to grow on, and pears;
Trees are to chop down and call, “TIMBER-R-R!”
Trees make mothers say,
What a lovely picture to paint”
Trees make fathers say,
“What a lot of leaves to rake this fall!”
The trees are used by birds. They live in the trees and build their nests. Trees are used by children.
Fig: Birds make nests on trees
They love to make tree houses and use them as swings. Children love to play hide and seek behind the trees. Not just children, even grown ups have fun around the trees. They have their tea parties under the shade of the trees. The strong winds that blow through the trees provide relief to passersby. During extreme summers, trees provide shade.
During winters, trees do not provide shade and allow people to bathe in the sun. People get to eat delicious fruit like apples and pears. Trees are useful even when they are chopped down.
We get timber which is used to make furniture. To some, trees are like beautiful pictures that they would love to paint and to others they are profitable as even their shattered leaves could be put to great use.
|1. What are the different parts of a tree?|
|2. How do trees help in maintaining the ecological balance?|
|3. What are some common uses of trees?|
|4. How can trees impact the local climate?|
|5. How can we contribute to tree conservation?|