Tammy Ho Lai-Ming’s “Dendrochronology”

5 Nov

In putting together the latest issue of Willows Wept Review, I got the chance to read a lot of great work. And much of the time, I’m able to articulate what I love about a piece pretty easily.

Tammy Ho Lai-Ming’s poem “Dendrochronology,” however, was an exception.

When I read it, I knew immediately that I wanted to publish it, but I wasn’t quite sure why. There was something about the poem that haunted me, and I found for days that it had stuck in my memory, that I was turning it over in my head while I was driving or running or cooking dinner. I knew it was great, knew there was something true in the comparison the poem makes, but I finally realized that I wasn’t sure what it meant to compare love to poplar.

The issue released last Friday, and it wasn’t until Tammy wrote about the poem on the Cha blog that I started to understand the poem in a rational way.

Lately, I’ve been teaching Jonathan Edwards’s “A Divine and Supernatural Light” and Ralph Waldo Emerson’s “Self-Reliance” in my American literature classes, and Tammy’s poem has made me more aware of the distinction that both of these writers make between sensory knowledge and rational knowledge–I recognized this poem’s greatness when I first read it, had a sense of its truth, but it wasn’t until much later, until after reading her own thoughts about the poem, that I came to a logical understanding of it.

I’ll invite you to read the poem over at Willows Wept Review, to see if it has the same effect on you that it has had on me. And then, when you’re ready, to read Tammy’s comments about it.

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