haibun, haiga, haiku, humor, photography

Henley’s Indomitable Trees

One of the few nineteenth century poems that move me is Invictus by William Ernest Henley.  The poem’s spirit of unflinching defiance can be expressed in more contemporary ways.  (Henley’s way is still good.)  After one very contemporary way inspired by trees, we end with a quick riff on forms and freedom in poetry.


© pivden | 123RF Stock Photo

An Oak Flips the Bird
|Storm splinters tree trunk
|and gets one-finger salute.
|Tree can still leaf out.


Henley’s indomitable trees are not all oaks.  On a short walk to see whether the oak that had flipped the bird could still leaf out, I saw a weeping willow that did not weep and a sugar maple that was not sweet.  Shrugging off storm damage, they both just leafed out.




Quick Riff on Forms and Freedom


While not so terse as a haiku, Henley’s Invictus is about as direct and succinct as formal nineteenth century poetry can be.  I don’t feel expected to forgive contortions or digressions motivated more by adherence to an elaborate form than by the topic at hand.  Invictus sings, and part of the appeal is that its form does not feel like a burden.

In poetry and elsewhere, adherence to forms and rules is looser nowadays.  That’s a mixed blessing.  Robert Frost was basically correct when he said

Writing free verse is like playing tennis w/o a net.

Tho people often try, U can’t get good poetry by sprinkling obligatory line breaks on bad prose.  But there are some good poems in utterly free verse.  Here are links to a few that I saw while working on this post:

– Gray button (upper left corner) reveals widgets, –
– above post (on phone) or beside it (on desktop). –

4 thoughts on “Henley’s Indomitable Trees

  1. At this point, I think nature has earned the right to flip us the bird anytime she wants. Although, really, she seems to be moving toward direct action of late..

    Thank you, Melllow, for the shout out vis-a-vis Frost. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks.  It was a nice coincidence.  I had a draft of this post w/o the final riff and with stuff in the pink box at the start that was awkward.  I lucked into seeing your challenge with the word [poetry] and one of the few poems in free verse that I like, then seeing another such poem.  Adding the riff and tweaking the intro fixed the too-narrow focus on how to write like Henley in haiku form.  🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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