Alfred Joyce Kilmer was born in New Brunswick, New Jersey on December 6, 1886. He graduated from Columbia University in 1908. From 1909 to 1912 he worked as a dictionary editor for Funk and Wagnall's. He served as Literary Editor of the "The Churchman," an Anglican newspaper, and in 1913 became a writer for The New York Times. The same year he would first publish the poem which made him famous - Trees.

When the U.S. declared war on Germany in 1917, Kilmer was a family man, with a wife and 2 children. He would not have been required to serve. He enlisted anyway.

Kilmer quickly attained the rank of Sergeant, then was assigned to the Regiment's Intelligence staff. As such, Kilmer had no front line responsibilities, but he would not be kept entirely out of action while his comrades were at risk.

On July 30, 1918, during the battle of the Ourcq, he attached himself as adjutant to Major William Donovan, commanding the First Battalion. Donovan's previous adjutant had been killed in combat the day before, just as Kilmer would be killed this day. A sniper's bullet ended the soldier-poet's life. He died, at age 31, facing the enemy. He was awarded the French Croix de Guerre for bravery. Better, though, they named a forest after him.

Far from being a one-trick pony, Kilmer published many poems before he died, as well as a little prose. The same year Trees was published, Robert Frost published his first publicly important book, North of Boston. Makes you wonder how things might have turned out for Kilmer if he'd lived through the war.

Selected poems and prose are accessible through the links below. includes a sonnet Kilmer wrote for his mother - it is neither sappy nor sucky, a difficult trick to pull off. features a picture of Kilmer in a fruity little helmet.


The Circus, and Other Essays

Complete Poems of Joyce Kilmer

The Courage of Enlightenment: An Address

The Fugitive Pieces

Literature In the Making, By Some of Its Makers

Main Street, and Other Poems

Summer of Love

Trees and Other Poems

Trees & Other Poems & Candles That Burn (by Joyce and Aline M. Kilmer)

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