Joyce Kilmer was born on 6 December 1886 in New Brunswick, New Jersey and was educated at Rutgers College¬†Grammar School and Rutgers College before transferring to Columbia University, graduating in 1908. After a short-lived career as a teacher Kilmer moved to New York City to develop a career as a writer, eventually becoming established as a published poet and popular lecturer. His first book of poems was published in 1911. After the publication of his poem ‘Trees’ in the magazine Poetry in 1913 he became a very popular poet and maintained a prolific output over the next few years.

In April 1917, a few days after the United States entered the First World War, Kilmer enlisted in the 7th Regiment of the New York National Guard; in August he was assigned as a statistician with the 69th Infantry Regiment (known as the ‘Fighting 68th’) and was promoted to sergeant. Athough he was often recommended for a commission during the course of the war, he refused. Before leaving for France in November 1917 Kilmer contracted to write a book about the war: he never completed the book but did have time to write prose sketches and poetry, including the poem ‘Rouge Bouquet’ in 1918.

Seeking more hazardous duty, Kilmer was transferred to the military intelligence section of the regiment in April 1918. During the heavy fighting during the Second Battle of the Marne Kilmer volunteered on 3o July 1918 to accompany Major Wililam Donovan when his battalion was sent to lead the day’s attack. During the course of the day he led a scouting party to find the position of German machine gun and was killed by a sniper. He was buried in the Oise-Aisne American Cemetery in Picardy and was posthumously awarded the Croix de Guerre by the French.

Joyce Kilmer’s Poems

Works by Joyce Kilmer at Project Gutenberg

Resources for Joyce Kilmer

Memories of my son Sergeant Joyce Kilmer by Annie Kilburn Kilmer  (1920) Internet Archive