Joyce Kilmer: New Jersey Poet and Morristown Teacher
Although many travelers know of Joyce Kilmer from the rest stop on the New Jersey Turnpike, avid readers and poetry enthusiasts know the Mahwah resident for his enduring poetry.
The exhibit and program tell the story of New Jersey-born poet and patriot Joyce Kilmer and the unraveling of the controversy over exactly where and when his famous poem "Trees" was written and how this was discovered by the Joyce Kilmer Society of Mahwah. This story also covers some of his other most-admired poems and the circumstances of his writing them, including "The House With Nobody In It," "The Twelve-Forty-Five," and two of his poems that have become wartime classics, "The White Ships and the Red" (about the sinking of the Lusitania) and "Rouge Bouquet (about the shelling of an American dugout that entombed 15 soldiers), both in World War I. Kilmer's enlisted in the U.S. Army and died on a French battlefield at age 31, where after he received the posthumous award by the French government of the Croix de Guerre for courage under fire. This is a compelling story that comes as America marks the 100th anniversary of the start of WWI and puts to rest the claims of many towns in America as to the being the birthplace of Kilmer's "Trees."
The exhibition will be on view in the Library’s second level, F.M. Kirby Gallery from July 5 through September 18, 2014.
Joyce Kilmer (1886-1918) and his family lived in Mahwah, N.J. from 1912 to 1916, where he wrote his famous “Trees” poem on February 2nd, 1913 in his office/bedroom overlooking a hill of trees. At the time, he worked for The New York Times and also penned other memorable poems there, including “The House With Nobody In it,” “Memorial Day,” and “Mount Houvenkopf.” Many people are not aware of his Morristown connections, however. After graduating from Columbia University and getting married in 1908, Kilmer moved to "an amiable house" in Morristown, and began his first fulltime job as a Latin teacher in Morristown High School, then housed in the Maple Avenue School building. His first child, Kenton, was born in Morristown on March 3, 1909. Successful in academics, he received a number of job offers, including several principal jobs, but decided upon a literary life and after a year, moved to New York City and later to Mahwah.
Alex Michelini is a former reporter/editor at the New York Daily News, winner of a number of journalistic awards and was a Pulitzer Prize finalist for an investigative series on soaring medical costs. Alex has studied Joyce Kilmer's career, off and on, since moving to Mahwah, N.J. 30 years ago. He located the notebook in which "Trees" was written during his research at the Georgetown University library in 2013. Mahwah Township and the Mahwah Historic Preservation Commission awarded Alex with a Certificate of Commendation for preserving Mahwah History.
Refreshments will be served.
This exhibition and program is supported by the Friends of the Morristown & Morris Township Library.