This anthology is more than a sylvan walk. It stems from an urgent necessity to engage with and protect our environment, and this conversation lies at its heart
Published on June 1st to coincide with London Tree Week London Tree Week The Tree Line: Poems for Trees, Woods & People is not only a beautiful and generous anthology of 60, specially commissioned poems, it has also been published with the support of the Legal Sustainability Alliance Legal Sustainability Alliance to celebrate the 800th anniversary of the Charter of the Forest and a new Charter for Trees, Woods and People Tree Charter
As Clive Anderson, President of the Woodland Trust, writes in his Foreword, this is ‘A sylvan anthology to enjoy rather like a walk in the woods - the eye attracted by a variety of shades and tones of subtly different subject matter, style and form: wit and irony intertwined with eulogies, effusions and epiphanies.'.
It's an anthology of diverse, vibrant and considered reflections, ideas and styles that bear witness to the vitality of trees in our daily existence, whether it's D. M. Black's observation that, ‘Trees have more DNA/than you or I.'; Peter Carpenter's reflection on the unknown identity of a tree bought from a long defunct Woolworths that, ‘down the London Road, gives its pick/and mix shadows, like Pissarro in Norwood.'; Alison Brackenbury's reminiscence of a childhood spent in trees, ‘The beech trees straining to their light/sighed in my blood.'; or Andy Brown's Committal, in response to John Burnside's Nocturne: Christmas, 2012, where he writes: ‘I also wish to carry on, here's how:/inter me deep in loamy woodland soil,/then plant a sapling oak above my head,/so hair and skin and bone my be reborn' - the anthology is a skilful and engaging mix, well edited by Michael McKimm, whose own poem Love Poem with Beech Coppard is included.
But the anthology is more than a sylvan walk. It stems from an urgent necessity to engage with and protect our environment, and this conversation lies at its heart. In the ways of artistry, this necessity is expressed by these poems and those wisdoms they embody, and with which we want to engage via our own, personal landscapes, represented not least by the enduring resilience of the tree, a living thing that can both predate and outlast us all.
I think in particular of the Ankerwycke yew tree in Surrey, said to have witnessed at least 2,000 years of history already. Here, apparently, Henry Vlll conducted some of his first liaisons with Anne Boleyn, which ultimately led to the break with Rome and creation of the Church of England. Often planted in churchyards, the Celts in particular considered the yew a holy tree, symbolising death and resurrection; and in that endurance lies our ecological hope.
More apposite to this anthology, perhaps, the Ankerwycke yew is said to be the spot at Runnymede where King John signed the Magna Carta in 1215. Two years later, in 1217, all the rules that related to forests that were included in the original Magna Carta were brought together in a dedicated Charter of the Forest. It is this 800 year-old charter that the Woodland Trust, along with numerous other organisations (The Charter Story) is celebrating with a new Charter for Trees, Woods and People for the 21st century. What is also brilliant is that for every signature, they'll plant a tree - at the time of writing, over 60,000 people already have: join them here Sign The Tree Charter Petition and make history, too.
It's not just individuals that have signed up to this. The Legal Sustainability Alliance (LSA) is a network of leading law firms committed to working collaboratively to encourage all employees of law firms to measure, manage and reduce their carbon footprint and to take action for a more sustainable future. In supporting and commissioning this unique poetry anthology, the LSA has created another platform for promoting awareness and commitment to good environmental practice.
In promotion of this commitment, the anthology's publication, the Charter for Trees and the LSA's 10th anniversary - and, really, in celebration too of the way industry and commerce and art can work together to the greater good - the Worple Press is hosting numerous events over the rest of the year in London, Bristol, the New Forest, Nottinghamshire and Winchester, further details are available here Tree Line Events
The Tree Line: Poems for Trees, Woods & People, is published by the Worple Press, price £10.00 (http://www.worplepress.com)
Harriet Griffey is the Ecologist's London-based Cultural Editor and is also Editorial Consultant at One Hand Clapping magazine (https://www.onehandclapping.online)