Mahwah history buff and Joyce Kilmer enthusiast Alex Michelini recently announced the formation of the 'Joyce Kilmer Society.'
Michelini is a researcher and former journalist whose documented report established that Joyce Kilmer's enduring poem Trees was written in his Mahwah home and dated February 2, 1913.
"We are proud to tell the world that Joyce Kilmer wrote this internationally-famous poem 100 years ago right here in our town in his house that still stands at the southwest corner of Airmount and Armour Roads," Michelini said. "He also penned other poems about Mahwah, among them The House With Nobody In It, and Mount Houvenkopf, during the years he lived in our town and interacted with Mahwah farmers and commuters and merchants. He never tired of talking about his reverence for our people, our rivers and streams and mountains and trees."
"That's why we formed the Joyce Kilmer Society of Mahwah as an educational organization devoted to public enlightenment of his life and times, particularly during his residence here."
Michelini said the group is planning lectures and events spotlighting not only Kilmer as a poet, but also as a patriot and a public-spirited townsperson who once helped neighbors douse a brush fire. The centerpiece of the society's work will be an e-newsletter to keep the public abreast of the celebration of Kilmer's iconic life.
"Our email address is email@example.com," he said. "You can contact us and register your name, address and email to receive the newsletter. We are a not-for-profit group. There are no fees or dues. Only a desire to express our pride over living in the birthplace of Joyce Kilmer's Trees and other poems about our town."
Michelini's research, conducted as a member of the Mahwah Historic Preservation Commission, found that Kilmer purchased a building lot in the Cragmere Park section of Mahwah in 1911, moved into his new house with his wife, Aline, and son, Kenton, in 1912 and wrote Trees in the house. Kenton Kilmer, the research showed, said in a memoir that his father wrote Trees in an upstairs room which was his parents' bedroom that also served as Joyce's office. Kenton said the window "looked out down a hill, on our well-wooded lawn -- trees of many kinds, from mature trees to thin saplings: oak, maples, black and white birches and I don't know what else."
The poem was written in a notebook, which Kenton said he had in his possession.
Dorothy V. Corson, an author of books on Notre Dame University, said she interviewed Kenton and he told her about the composition and date of Trees, in the notebook. Corson also spoke to Joyce Kilmer's daughter, Deborah, a Benedictine nun, who corroborated Kenton's account. A grand-daughter, Miriam A. Kilmer, also has reported her father, Kenton's rememberance on her website.
In a letter to his mother, Annie Kilburn Kilmer, four months after the writing of Trees, Joyce Kilmer said the poem would probably be published in Poetry magazine. Trees, was, in fact, published for the first time in the August issue of Poetry.
On February 1, Mahwah Mayor Bill Laforet, flanked by Councilmen John Roth and John Spiech, issued a proclamation designating February 2 in perpetuity as "Joyce Kilmer Day" at ceremonies in the Mahwah Public Library that also included a literary display of some of Kilmer's work.
The above was submitted by Alex Michelini.