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Reviewed by Emily-Jane Hills Orford for Readers' Favorite
I love my trees. My home is surrounded by trees. All kinds of trees. I may not be very knowledgeable about these trees, but I do appreciate them. Perhaps not as much as poet John Benzee. His collection of poems paints a vivid picture in words of fifty commonly recognized trees from across the United States. Tree Verse: A Collection of Tree Poems explores the beauty and uniqueness of each tree, using different forms of verse applicable to the tree being honored in his poems.
The Cherry Tree takes an interesting approach. Each stanza uses alliteration featuring one letter: “Pretty pink petals/ Pop petite perfume/ Predict premature pips…” The words chosen for this alliterative effect are descriptive in both the visual and sensual form. The end result is a clever rendition of a cherry tree. Other styles of poetry are used - haiku and tanka - but free verse dominates. The poet has a profound grasp of the English language and uses each word effectively to create a vision of the tree. The Pear Tree is aligned in the shape of a pear, a concrete poem, and the words express the tasty fruit the tree provides: “Nature’s candy/ Dangle and drop/ For the treasure seekers/ Bent on gaining a rustic meal.”
Similes and metaphors abound in this delightful collection of poetry. Of all the poems, however, I have to admit I’m rather partial to The Three Birches. Having three birches in my front forest, this poem speaks volumes to my appreciation and love of this tree. “We three birch/ Are family,/ Sisters to be exact,” and “Our entangled roots/ Keep us close,/ Sending nimble messages to each other.” And, finally, my favorite part: “Sometimes we leave anonymous/ Scrolled-up notes to passersby/ That peels from our sandpaper body./ We’re a talkative bunch/ As trees go, but/ We’re in the same grove,/ So it’s just our nature.” I shall forever look at those birch bark peelings and think of these prophetic words of wisdom. Thank you for a wonderful collection of poems.