Planning committee for the Poet Tree Photo from Susan Gundlach

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Celebrating Poetry Month, poet and Evanston resident Sue Gundlach created a Poet Tree on the parkway in front of her house on Judson Avenue. She invited neighbors to submit a favorite poem – or an original one – and she made large copies of these and hung them on the tree.

“That has been an interesting challenge, given the weird weather we’ve been having in Illinois — rain, snow, golf-ball size hail, etc.,” she said. “The response from passersby has been so lovely — I do think people want to ‘shelter in poems,’” she added, using a phrase from the Academy of American Poets, which in 1996 established April as National Poetry Month. 

“Sometimes people might not even realize the effects poetry can have, but when they see the display, they take time to read, discuss, and just enjoy. “You won’t be surprised that there are several Shel Silverstein poems, along with words from Marge Piercy, Robert Frost, Christina Rossetti, Seamus Heaney, even a poem of mine and many more.” Three Poet Tree offerings appear in the sidebar to this story.

Ms. Gundlach’s poems have appeared in various journals, including After Hours, The Human Touch, Dark Matter and In Plein Air. In 2017, she and Evanston artists Lea Basile Lazarus published Stories in Images and Words: An Exhibition of Art and Poetry in 2017.  

Ms. Gundlach said she alternates the poems from day to day “so there will not be an overwhelming quantity that might scare people away. We hope to give folks a quiet moment in these days that are filled with face masks, nervous trips to the grocery store and financial and health anxieties.”

Although Poetry Month ends on April 30, Ms. Gundlach said the Poet Tree will likely continue into May.”

Asked what she would think if others adopted the idea of a Poet Tree, Ms. Gundlach said, “If others want to copy the idea, more power to them.” She said she could offer some time-saving advice, “based on the many rearrangements we’ve had to make. It’s rather disheartening to see one of the foam boards upside down in the tree during a strong wind.”

The Poet Tree could branch out.

Poems From the Poet Tree

School

Get out of the way,

She said and smacked him

like he was a mosquito on her arm

Yo, 

He said holding his hand up 

Little CJ,

The teacher said like he loved the kid

That was all you, he said,

trying to act tough

Bet, 

They said like always…

But this year is different

This year is filled with latex gloves and blue masks 

This year we have to stay six feet apart

This year we cannot go to school

This year we cannot feel like a normal person

This year,

This year the world is sick 

And we have to fix it

So we can see our friends

So we can go to school

So 

We

Can

Feel

Like

Normal 

People

                                                            —Aden Johansen, age 12

The Coronavirus

I don’t like the coronavirus.

I can’t see my family and friends.

I can’t go to school.

I can’t hug my grandma and grandpa.

I can’t wait until it leaves. 

The first thing I will do when it’s gone 

is hug everyone really tight. 

Then I will have a big party.

I don’t like the coronavirus.

                                                   —Beckett Johansen, age 6

Time Travel

Two leftover deer

galloping, floating out of the fog,

appearing from another time,

gliding down the street and up into yards,

stopping to nibble on sculptured shrubs

that were never meant to be there

in the long ago wildness,

creatures straight from a medieval tapestry,

standing by, still, staring at my dog and me,

we who are strangers in this misty scene. 

                                  –Susan Gundlach

Reflection

A sunny morning reflection

has put trees in my neighbors’ kitchen,

a breezy criss-cross of branches

swaying as someone makes breakfast

among the leaves

someone opens the refrigerator

a phone might be ringing

coffee might be brewing

the dog might be barking, romping

in her see-through forest

until the sun changes slant 

and shadows steal the moment away

                                –Susan Gundlach