Born in New Brunswick, New Jersey, Alfred Joyce Kilmer (1886–1918) was both a poet and a patriot. After graduating from Columbia University in 1908, Kilmer worked at various publications before being hired by the New York Times. He published his most famous poem, “Trees,” in 1914. When the US entered World War I, Kilmer was 31 years old. Although he was exempted from his service obligation, Kilmer voluntarily joined the New York Seventh Regiment, later transferring to the “Fighting 69th” Regiment when it was chosen to be the first New York unit sent to France. During the war, he continued to write. In poems such as “Rouge Bouquet” and “The Peacemaker,” he reflected on his experiences in combat. Kilmer was killed while scouting for enemy gun positions on July 30, 1918. He was posthumously awarded the French Croix de Guerre (Cross of War) for his courage.
Author: Joyce Kilmer
Joyce Kilmer (1896–1918) was an American poet whose poems, before World War I, had focused on natural themes and his Catholic faith. But after entering Army service, he turned many of his thoughts to the scenes of war. He composed “Rouge Bouquet” sometime in 1917 or 1918, to memorialize some of his fellow soldiers killed in battle. In March 1918, it was read over the graves of 21 of his fallen infantry comrades. Eerily, a few months later, the poem was read over Kilmer’s own grave.
In this poem, written in the last year of his life and the last year of World War I, the American poet Joyce Kilmer (1886–1918) offers a complex and moving picture of the American soldier then giving battle in Europe.