“The wood is full of shining eyes/The wood is full of creeping feet/
The wood is full of tiny cries/You must not go to the wood at night!”
With these opening lines and a style of illustration unique in picture books, I was drawn into The Magic Wood, an adult poem by British writer Henry Treece. Barry Mozer uses only blue and black for the illustrations, sprinkling in sparks of gold to highlight certain elements in the picture, like eyes or a gold ring. This palette conveys the dread and danger the narrator ignores when he enters the wood at night. The sense of dire consequences is apparent in every picture.
But the poem has an upbeat ending. I read it as a Christian parable. The wood is temptation, and the narrator takes his first steps into giving in to it when he ventures inside. The strange creature he meets tries to entice him further. But when he senses danger, he says “my prayers, all out in a rush/And found myself safe on my father’s land.”
The poem is an example of stanzas written in rhymes or near rhymes. Although I usually don’t like that style, the poem does have a rhythm, which makes it fun to read out loud to kids.
Mr. Treece wrote five books of poetry. I’ve tried to read them. He has great skill in establishing a mood of loss and darkness, but a little of that goes a long way with me. If I read too much of it, I get depressed.
So test your taste for Mr. Treece’s poems with The Magic Wood. Maybe you will be captured by it like I was.
What are some of your favorite poems?