When You Give a Tree an Email Address #NaPoWriMo18 #NPM2018

Alex Tree


When you give a tree an email address, expect love letters
Paeans to its radiant beauty, long limbs, strength, and shade,
Polite inquiries into its health, best wishes for long life.


This poem is a sijo, a Korean form I was introduced to in a poem by Ms. Chiubooka Writes. A sijo is a three-line poem of 44-46 syllables, divided among three lines with 14-16 syllables in each line. The first line introduces the situation, the second line develops it, and the third line introduces a twist and resolution. Each line is also supposed to include some kind of break, closer to the halfway mark than I’ve managed here. 

The idea for this poem (as well as some of its language) comes from a wonderful article by Adrienne LaFrance about a program in Melbourne, Australia, where urban trees are assigned numbers and email addresses so that residents can share concerns about the health of their favorite trees. The unexpected consequence of giving trees email addresses was fan mail. 

national poetry writing month 2018

14 thoughts on “When You Give a Tree an Email Address #NaPoWriMo18 #NPM2018

  1. Unique idea for a poem. Thanks for sharing and explaining how the form works. I might have to give this a try.

    • They’re hard! I started out thinking oh, nice, look at all these syllables I get to play with, this is going to be so much easier than a haiku or tanka. HA! I am going to try to write more because I think it’s an interesting form and that break in the middle is really tricky!

  2. I love the idea of taking care of trees by treating them like humans w/ email. Your poem is fun. I’m trying to remember the children’s book that begins “When you give a…” I’m sure you know it. I’m making a list of the poem forms I want to try.

    • Yes, I was thinking about “When you give a mouse a cookie” and originally planned a longer lighthearted accumulative poem in that vein. But then decided this topic worked pretty well for an attempt at sijo. I wish I knew more about poetic forms. I think it’s time to buy a book!

      • I know, it just opens up so many questions. Which tree gets the most fan mail? What concerns, joys, etc. do the people writing the trees write about? Will people visit more because the tree is *their* tree? I mean, there’s just so much!

    • I feel the same way about the article and the emails. Absolute delight! I love to imagine the city workers opening these emails and finding such personal words rather than the tree condition reports they were no doubt expecting. And I’m so curious about the person who decided to write back and answer some of the emails. Priceless!

  3. I have never heard of a sijo. Maybe a form I will try this month (but it sounds almost as hard as a golden shovel!) I love the idea of giving a tree an email address. Kind of crazy!

    • Not a form I’d ever heard of before either. It was actually a lot harder than I thought it was going to be. I am constantly picking forms because they sound easy to me and then I get into the middle of it and I’m like, ARGH! I definitely have the golden shovel on my list to try this month, but I am writing a SHORT one. I can’t imagine a whole month of them!!

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