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Dumb and Forked: The Street Tree Poetics of Millay and Williams

Dumb and Forked: The Street Tree Poetics of Millay and Williams This urban ecocritical study reads the poetry of Edna St. Vincent Millay and William Carlos Williams in the context of the American street tree movement, a civic health and beautification program that advocated for the planting of shade trees along urban thoroughfares. It argues that both poets critique the ‘ideal’ street tree forwarded by the movement. In ‘City Trees,’ Millay presents a shade tree whose therapeutic effects are overwhelmed by the noise pollution in New York City, much like the speaker herself. In ‘Young Sycamore,’ Williams eschews the visual ideal of symmetrical, evenly-spaced shade trees in favor of a wily, asymmetrical organism that actively torques toward the light. By extension, these poets present city habitats as alternately more toxic and more wild than the street tree movement had imagined, a critique with ramifications for contemporary urban reforestation movements today. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Modernist Cultures Edinburgh University Press

Dumb and Forked: The Street Tree Poetics of Millay and Williams

Modernist Cultures , Volume 16 (1): 25 – Feb 1, 2021

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Publisher
Edinburgh University Press
Copyright
Copyright © Edinburgh University Press
ISSN
2041-1022
eISSN
1753-8629
DOI
10.3366/mod.2021.0318
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

This urban ecocritical study reads the poetry of Edna St. Vincent Millay and William Carlos Williams in the context of the American street tree movement, a civic health and beautification program that advocated for the planting of shade trees along urban thoroughfares. It argues that both poets critique the ‘ideal’ street tree forwarded by the movement. In ‘City Trees,’ Millay presents a shade tree whose therapeutic effects are overwhelmed by the noise pollution in New York City, much like the speaker herself. In ‘Young Sycamore,’ Williams eschews the visual ideal of symmetrical, evenly-spaced shade trees in favor of a wily, asymmetrical organism that actively torques toward the light. By extension, these poets present city habitats as alternately more toxic and more wild than the street tree movement had imagined, a critique with ramifications for contemporary urban reforestation movements today.

Journal

Modernist CulturesEdinburgh University Press

Published: Feb 1, 2021

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