But his contribution to the literary world was undeniable and of intrinsic value, as was the indelible mark he left upon the township of Mahwah during his all too brief five-year residency. It is a legacy that instills pride in the community and it is heartwarming to see how that legacy is embraced by all who come to know it; particularly, the community leaders.
Nowhere was this acknowledgment more apparent than when last year, Mayor William Laforet proclaimed February 2nd as “Joyce Kilmer Day” in honor of the great poets life, as well as his work, “Trees”.
Yesterday, being Super Bowl Sunday, was not only a cause for celebration throughout the Garden State, but right here in Mahwah, a celebration of humbler sorts was taking place as well; this one observing the life of one of America's greatest poets, Joyce Kilmer.
Kilmer, born in New Brunswick, NJ in 1886, purchased land in Mahwah in 1911, and in 1912, moved into his residence at the southwest corner of Airmount and Armour Roads. There, he and his wife remained until 1916, raising four of their five children. And it was in this home on February 2nd, 1913 that Kilmer gazed from an upstairs window and penned his most famous composition, “Trees”.
The event was hosted by the Joyce Kilmer Society of Mahwah, a non-profit educational organization dedicated to the public enlightenment of the life and times of poet/patriot Joyce Kilmer in Mahwah through its newsletters, lectures and exhibits. It encourages emerging poets through opportunities for public exposure of their compositions, and endeavor to foster a deeper appreciation of poetry and the arts in general.
Michelini, a former award-winning reporter at the New York Daily News, was the person responsible for locating the actual notebook in which the poem was written and dated at Georgetown University Library’s research center, where it was donated by the Kilmer family. He also located a 1929 letter in the library written by Kilmer’s widow, Aline, stating “definitely” the poem was written in their Mahwah house in an upstairs room with a window looking down a wooded hill.
The celebration went on from 11:30 to 1:30 and featured an exhibit of rarely-seen Joyce Kilmer photos and a display of vintage Joyce Kilmer books. Attendees within the filled-to-capacity atrium were also entertained by free drawings for Joyce Kilmer T-shirts and mugs.
Food for the event was provided by Roxanne's owner, Peter Mastorakos, who put forth a wonderful spread containing a variety of delicious brick-oven pizzas, pasta, salad, calamari, grilled vegetables, grilled chicken, and chicken parmesan.
All in all, it was a terrific afternoon, where community leaders, citizens, residents and a few pure history buffs came together for a couple of hours, not to merely share a great meal and spellbinding tales of old while celebrating the life of an American legend, but also, share an esprit de corps for their community - a community, I for one, am glad to be a part of.