The Love Poetry of Trees

Photo: Jonny Hughes/Flickr Creative Commons

As some of you may recall, I’ve been working my way through the research diaries of Grad Bernart. Bernart is, of course, most famous for his breakthroughs in communicating with trees. While his early discoveries about tree behaviour were quite shocking, it seems the grad eventually reconciled both his conscience and sanity with the absurdities and violence that seem to be endemic within the culture of trees.

This transformation in Grad Bernart’s thinking is most clearly demonstrated in his translations of the love poetry of trees. The grad translated nearly a hundred such poems, one of which I would like to share with you here. I’ve included a short introduction written by the great man himself. Here goes:

from the research notes of Grad Bernart:

“There are two main difficulties in comprehending the love poetry of trees. First, differences between human and tree perceptions give rise to different means of expression. For instance, trees do not see light and dark, possess no sense of hearing and have minimal senses of touch and smell. They do, however, have acute senses of hot and cold and wet and dry.

The second difficulty lies in understanding a tree’s concept of love. One tree does not fall in love with another. A tree falls in love with bees, butterflies, moths, flies, birds, even the wind. And it doesn’t fall in love with just one of these, it falls in love with all of them. What people will likely find more disturbing, however, is the ever-present undercurrent of pain–sometimes even violence–which colours a tree’s sense of love. After all, the butterfly or breeze that pollinates it today may be the caterpillar or storm that strips its leaves tomorrow. For a tree, love can be a dangerous thing.

As an example, take this poem, written by a poplar grove made up of between 18 and 25 trees (depending on how and when you count them) which I have, for reasons of my own, named Edward. Edward called this poem ‘Come, you gentle winds’.

Come, you gentle winds.

When the earth once again grows warm,
when waters stir and sap rises,
when your winter fury is spent
and your hard blows turn to soft caresses,

Then come close, gentle winds,

and my green weave will welcome you.
My branches will bend and bow before you,
my blossoms will adorn you with incense and pollen
and my seed will clothe you in gossamer thread.

Come to me,
gentle winds,
and let us remind each other
what spring is for.



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