Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry: Explained, TAKING DOWN THE TREE, by JANE KENYON

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Classic and Contemporary Poetry: Explained

TAKING DOWN THE TREE, by             Poet Analysis     Poet's Biography

"Taking Down the Tree" is a poem by Jane Kenyon, an American poet born in 1947 and who passed away in 1995. Kenyon is known for her insightful and contemplative poetry that often explores themes of nature, mortality, and everyday life.


In "Taking Down the Tree," the speaker reflects on the end of the Christmas season and the return to normal life. The poem begins with a reference to the play Hamlet, in which the characters cry out for light amidst murder and tragedy. The speaker then reflects on the loss of irony in modern society, before turning to thoughts of Lent and sentimentality. The poem ends with a mundane interruption from the speaker's barking dog, suggesting that even in the face of grand ideas and reflections, life goes on.

Poetic Elements:

  • Free verse form
  • Allusion (referencing the play Hamlet)
  • Irony
  • Imagery (the painting of two monks sharing a drink)
  • Symbolism (the Christmas tree representing the passing of time)
  • Tone (reflective, introspective, and somewhat humorous)
  • Syntax (use of short, fragmented sentences to convey a sense of urgency and immediacy)


"Taking Down the Tree" is a thought-provoking poem that reflects on the end of the Christmas season and the return to everyday life. The poem explores larger ideas about the loss of irony and the value of sentimentality, while also acknowledging the mundane interruptions and distractions of daily life.

Poem Snippet:

"Irony is dead. O.K., not dead, but rusting badly."

"What's wrong with mawkish drivel? I'm sentimental, if you know what I mean."

"That's it: I'm going to go out and drink with a friend."

"And before I can get my coat on, the dog upstairs starts barking at nothing."

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