Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Poetry Tree Tradition Marks Arrival of Spring

You can always tell when spring has arrived. Green grass. Singing birds. Bare feet. And the Poetry Tree.

Every spring, the weeping cherry tree between the corner of Main Hall and the Sundial sprouts green leaves, pink blossoms and verse. Students and faculty use ribbon to hang copies of their original and favorite poems to the tree’s branches.

Jim Peterson, an accomplished poet, playwright, novelist, and Randolph English professor, likes the tradition. “Poems and creativity are as organic to our lives as leaves are to trees. The impulse to shape our thoughts and feelings into a written form that can be shared is one that many people have, and the poetry tree provides them with a non-academic, non-threatening way to do it. And besides, it's just fun.”

Like the origin of many campus traditions, the history of the poetry tree is a bit mysterious.

Retired professor Mary Brewer Guthrow ‘65 places it back as far as the 1960s. “My best memory is that my professor, Margaret Raynal, hung the ‘Loveliest of Trees’ by A.E. Housman out there every year and then other poems from other poem-hangers appeared.” 

Like spring blossoms, however, the beauty is short lived. When the rains came this year, the ink ran, obscuring the words. If you look closely, though, you can still make out a phrase on one stained parchment... “Vita Abundantior.”