Patterns (Tree and Leaf) a poem about Tolkien

As today is Tolkien’s Birthday I thought I’d post this poem which was inspired by my memory of having once seen a grainy photograph of Tolkien leaning back into a tree contentedly and smoking his pipe, – something I quite often do myself. The memory of that image led me on to a reverie about life and leaves and Tolkien’s tree of tales. But when I came to look for the photo, to illustrate the poem here, I found that no single image answered to my remembered photo – but these two are closest – perhaps I had fused them together in my mind. At any rate here is the poem, which I included in my book ‘The Singing Bowl, published by Canterbury Press

As usual you can hear me read the poem by clicking on the title or the ‘play’ button


Patterns (Tree and Leaf)

Tolkien is leaning back into an oak
Old, gnarled, distinct in bole and burr
As, from the burr and bowl of his old pipe,
Packed with tightly patterned shreds of leaf,
The smoke ascends in rings and wreathes of air
To catch the autumn light and meet such leaves
As circle through its wreathes and patter down
In patterns of their own to the rich ground.

He contemplates again the tree of tales;
The roots of language and its rings of growth
‘The tongue and tale and teller all coeval’
And he becomes a pattern making patterns,
A tale telling tales and turning leaves,
From the print of thumb and finger on his pipe
To the print and press and pattern of his books
And all their prints and imprints in our minds
Out to this grainy patterned photograph
Of ‘Tolkien, leaning back into an oak’.

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8 Comments

Filed under imagination

8 responses to “Patterns (Tree and Leaf) a poem about Tolkien

  1. Jenny Tod

    Lovely poem but definitely NOT an oak! A pine of some sort.

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

  2. The instant I saw the top picture, I was sent back to the spring and lockdown. But a v good memory! My husband and I took off for a very long walk, along a section of the Monmouthshire and Brecon canal – headed towards Crickhowell (from Abergavenny) . In one section a garden mingles onto the tow path and there are rhodedendrons and a massive tree, with roots splayed and visible like the ones above. A yew tree in this case – and we stopped, had a cup of tea and rested. Somehow I found the most perfect spot – nestled amongst roots – and lay looking up to the branches and finding perfect peace.. lovely poem , as ever! thank you Malcolm for triggering a wonderful memory.

  3. What a wonderful reason for tears. Thank you Malcolm. Thank you.

  4. Barbara L Parry

    I was so sad to learn that “Tolkien’s tree” in the Oxford gardens had been destroyed in a storm, but maybe like the tree in CS Lewis’ “The Magician’s Nephew” it will be made into a magic wardrobe somewhere…?

  5. bgulland72

    Love the detail, alliteration & assonance

  6. Pingback: aspirations – Nicholas H. Dalbey

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