Joyce Kilmer was born on December 6, 1886, in New Brunswick, New Jersey. Kilmer attended Rutgers Preparatory School and graduated in 1904. He attended Rutgers College from 1904 to 1906, then transferred to Columbia University, where he completed his bachelor’s degree in journalism in 1908. That same year, he married poet Aline Murray.
After Kilmer graduated college, he took a job teaching Latin at a high school in Morristown, New Jersey, and wrote features for The Literary Digest, The Nation, Town & Country, and The New York Times. From 1909 to 1912, he worked for Funk and Wagnalls, writing definitions for The Standard Dictionary, and continued to write magazine articles for publication.
In 1911, Kilmer published his first poetry collection, A Summer of Love (The Baker & Taylor Company). Two years later, he published what would become his most famous poem, “Trees,” in Poetry magazine. The poem was included in his second collection, Trees and Other Poems (Doubleday, Doran & Company, 1914).
Kilmer published his last poetry collection, Main Street and Other Poems (George H. Doran Company, 1917), the same year he enlisted in the U.S. Army to serve in World War I, during which time he continued to write poems while fighting in the Sixty-Ninth Regiment. He died of a gunshot from a German sniper on July 30, 1918.