Sep 29, 2011

Jane Hirshfield, "Tree," Red-bellied Woodpecker


Once again, the bird did it. I've been led to Jane Hirshfield's "Tree" by a woodpecker that caught my ear, then my eye, the other day. I searched for woodpecker poems at Poetry Foundation and found instead Hirshfield's poem with a redwood's tapping, rather than a woodpecker.

Tree by Jane Hirshfield : The Poetry Foundation

Once again, this is my first experience with the poem I'm offering. So far I like it. I applaud its ambition in posing huge questions without becoming a pretentious tease.  How small can a poem be, or seem, when its subject is gigantic?  And how large or abstract can a poem's subject be before it wanders into the realm of philosophy rather than verse? How philosophical can a poem be without falling into fortune-cookie-think? How can we ask such questions and expect reasonable answers?  How can we fail to ask such questions?

In "Tree," I love the idea that a humongous idea or question can take the form of tapping. Literally, it's tree branches, but why not toss in a Red-bellied Woodpecker as well. Either can suggest something larger than itself and small as a human self. Tap tap.

Ironically, the last time I offered a Jane Hirshfield poem (January 15-16, 2011), it was also related to a woodpecker. In case you're interested:

http://banjo52.blogspot.com/2011/01/woodpecker-keeps-returning-by-jane.html

Tree by Jane Hirshfield : The Poetry Foundation

7 comments:

Brenda's Arizona said...

An incredibly stupid question I ask here... how can anyone know this poem is about a woodpecker? The huge redwoods in California seem to make a noise, a symphony of their own. Could that be Hirshfield's clutter of noise?

Oh, your photos are awesome. Meaning, I am in awe.

Farmchick said...

Excellent photos and I agree with Brenda's comment about the poem!

Barbaro said...

I admire her compactness, even as I chuckle at the irony of writing a tiny poem about an immense tree, indeed "immensity" itself. What a different take (bigger, not necessarily better) Neruda would have.

Banjo52 said...

Brenda and Farmchick, I think it's my fault that you were misled, and I've changed my wording somewhat for clarification. I didn't mean to say there was an actual woodpecker in "Trees," but I ended up sort of implying it. You're right--it's the tree that's tapping.

Barbaro, wish you'd go on a bit about Neruda. I've never entirely "gotten" the wonder of him that so many readers find. Anyone care to offer Neruda titles to convert those of us among the great unwashed?

Pasadena Adjacent said...

That is my favorite poem you've posted. I don't want to analyze it. I get it in my bones.

Brenda's Arizona said...

I, too, would love to hear more from Barbaro on Neruda.
Banjomyn, try some of Neruda's "Odes..." One is "Ode to Bird Watching", tho it isn't my favorite. Love his "A Dog has Died" (the imagery of being buried there!!) and "I'll explain some things" about living thru the revolution. Lovely.

But perhaps it is the translators who make it all lovely.

Banjo52 said...

PA, I can see how it would be that kind of poem for a lot of people. I'm still liking it just fine, esp. the image of immensity, tapping.

Brenda, I really will try those. When it's Neruda, clearly the fault is mine.

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