Pastoral Psychology

, Volume 60, Issue 3, pp 437–449 | Cite as

Trees and Us: Poetic Metaphors and Pastoral Images

  • Donald CappsEmail author


This article elaborates on my earlier contention that poetry and pastoral care have a great deal in common (Capps, The Poet’s Gift, 1993) by focusing on Joyce Kilmer’s well-known poem “Trees.” I use this poem to support the metaphorical association of trees and human beings and to advocate for the pastoral image of the upholder. A brief sketch of Kilmer’s life is presented, and parodies of the poem are used to address the question whether pens are mightier than swords (a question that Kilmer’s own life as a poet and soldier also evokes). The article concludes with Denise Levertov’s poem “From Below” which, together with Kilmer’s “Trees,” illumines the image of the pastor as ordained to be the upholder of the community and of the individuals who comprise it.


Poetry Pastoral care Metaphor Pastoral images Community of voices Era Bell Thompson Joyce Kilmer Trees Upholder Margaret Zipes Kornfield Parody Pens vs. swords Thor Engval Howard Nemerov Denise Levertov 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Princeton Theological SeminaryPrincetonUSA

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