Jose Carillo's Forum


This section features links to interesting, instructive, or thought-provoking readings about the English language and related disciplines. The selections could be anywhere from light and humorous to serious and scholarly, and they range widely from the reading, writing, listening, and speaking disciplines to the teaching and learning of English.

Bashing a poem that, well, just happens to be “lovely as a tree”

Are you one of the many admirers of the poem “Trees” by Alfred Joyce Kilmer? You know, that eminently recitable paean that, then and even now, we’d often see consecutively writ line by line on billboard upon billboard and lamppost signage upon lamppost signage along many a city street and countryside road in the Philippines, intoning…

I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.

A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast;

A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;

A tree that may in Summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;

Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.

Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.

Well, what do you know, there’s this killjoy of a guy named Thomas Vinciguerra, an American writer and editor, who thinks that Kilmer’s “Trees” is a “notoriously awful poem…singsongy and saccharine” and with such “preposterous imagery.” This Vinciguerra had the gall to say all those nasty things—regardless of whether they are true or not—in the August 16, 2013 issue of The New York Times, even going as far as making this shameless admission: “For more than half my life, I have been party to the ongoing burial of a literary reputation.”

And yet, after those vicious stabs at both poem and author, this Vinciguerra guy suddenly makes a cowardly about-face and says, grudgingly: “Strangely enough, I don’t think my victim entirely deserves it.”

Now, whatever you personally think about Kilmer’s “Trees,” doesn’t this Vinciguerra guy remind you of someone who did something so eerily similar recently and, truth to tell, do you think he’s scrupulously honest and truthful with what he says? Will you still listen to what else he has to say about anything?

Read Thomas Vinciguerra’s “A Tree Grows, and Grows” in The New York Times now!

In “Dear Emma...”, an essay published in the August 17, 2013 issue of The New York Times, writer and pilot Mark Vanhoenacker observes that many netizens tend to blame the ease and speed of the Internet for our staccato attention spans, not realizing that some things—like letters that take time to write and mail—remain more valuable simply because they are hard to do. “With my job — and my laptop, tablet and two phones — I’m by any measure a technophile,” he says.” But I was overjoyed to learn that new paper-based friendships are breaking trails between New Mexico and Vermont, across a country and a world that are nowhere near as clickable as we imagine.”

Poster VS SocialNetworks

Read Mark Vanhoenacker’s “Dear Emma…” in The New York Times now!

In “Don’t You Dare Say ‘Disruptive’,” an article that came out in the August 15, 2013 issue of The New Republic, Judith Shulevitz, the magazine’s science editor, argues that the word “disruptive” is the most pernicious cliché of our time. She says: “Sometimes buzzwords become so pervasive they’re almost inaudible, which is when we need to start listening to them. Disruptive is like that. It floats in the ether at ideas festivals and TED talks; it vanishes into the jargon cluttering the pages of Forbes and Harvard Business Review. It’s no longer the adjective you hope not to hear in parent-teacher conferences. It’s what you want investors to say about your new social-media app. If it’s disruptive, it’s also innovative and transformational.” And that, she says, is the problem with that word today.

Read Judith Shulevitz’s Don’t You Dare Say ‘Disruptive” in The New Republic now!

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