Poetry Monday: Trees

I’m not sure how this poem is not yet included in my blog, given that it has now appeared in several other places on the internet. Time to put that right.

The poem grew from a remark made by Malcolm Guite on one of his retreat days at Otley hall; I forget the context, but “Trees are a way of thinking” stuck in my mind and became the first line of a poem.

The poem was then found on Facebook by Chris Upton, who set it to music, and I was lucky enough to attend a concert at which it was performed by Seraphim, an excellent all-female ensemble choir. (You can hear it performed here and access the sheet music from this page)

It gained another claim to fame earlier this year when I sent a copy to Dame Judi Dench after watching her beautiful documentary My Passion for Trees. She sent a lovely thank you note in reply, and I’d like to think that she read it (preferably out loud in that famous voice!) and has tucked the sheet music away somewhere.

Here is the poem:

Trees are a way of thinking, for every tree is given
an appetite for earth with an ambition to reach heaven,
a fingerprinted bark to wrap up memories in rings
of a hundred winters fading, followed by a hundred springs.

Trees are a way of praying, for every tree’s a church:
the cathedral of the willow and the steeple of the birch,
the summoning of seasons in the sacrifice of leaves
and stained-glass window winter skies through criss-cross branching eaves.

Trees are a way of hearing, for those with ears to hear,
about the hope locked into seeds, the blessing of the year.
Happy is nature’s poet when he has an eye that sees
for parables of roots and fruits, you can rely on trees.

7 thoughts on “Poetry Monday: Trees

    1. Thank you! Have you found the musical version through the link on this blog? I think with SoundCloud and some earphones, you could listen to it in your woodland (twice as beautiful as the words alone!)


  1. Dear Amy,

    That’s absolutely lovely – thank you so much for sharing it with us ! I was so pleased to hear about your Very Important Projects/Books, & do hope they’re coming on well. If you can tear yourself away from the keyboard to come to Scargill I’ll see you then, otherwise lots & love & do hope all is well with you, Tiffer, Abi & Jeremy.

    The Lord bless you & keep you, love from Cathy xxxx



    1. The ‘he’ in this poem is a nod to Malcolm who inspired it, as well as the male poet he was talking about at the time: besides, I’m one of those people who thinks that until English has a generally used and understood neuter pronoun, ‘he’ is more likely to mean everybody than ‘she’.


      1. Fair enough. I have my own version of inclusive language: ‘she’ includes ‘he’ and ‘woman’ includes ‘man’! (well they do, factually speaking!)


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