A Reading of the Poem "Canopy"

A Reading of the Poem, “Canopy”

A Reading of the Poem, "Canopy"

Today’s feature marks a first for not just The Renaissance Garden Guy, but for me, as well.  You’ll find the premier entry in The RGG’s Sights and Sounds “Poetry Slams and Readings” category right here.  And it represents the first time ever that any of my written work has been publicly read or recorded.  In this reading of the poem, “Canopy,” my 2024 work gains a haunting new dimension and is informed and empowered by one of today’s truly remarkable voices.   

Unbelievable Speed 2023

This reading of my poem, “Canopy” (first published here in The Renaissance Garden Guy in February of this year), is performed by the remarkable Ms. Sam Preston.  Sam’s return today marks her third consecutive monthly appearance here in The Renaissance Garden Guy.  This is a history making hat trick in RGG Land (before today, no single RGG guest or contributor has appeared here three months in a row), and it couldn’t have worked out any better.  I’m happy that it’s Sam who holds this distinction, and I’m honored that she’s elected to perform this incredible reading of my work.  (Believe it or not, Sam asked me if she could perform this reading, and honest to God, besides being entirely honored and humbled, I’m utterly flabbergasted.)

Regular RGG readers and subscribers will know Sam as an award-winning master gardener from West Yorkshire in the UK, and will be familiar with the horticultural and arboreal artistry she performs in that role.  But her appearance here today reveals an entirely different side of Sam Preston.  Make sure to stick around to the end of this one – you’ll get a bit more insight into her remarkable repertoire. 

Below, you’ll find a reprinting of “Canopy” as a reference for you, and below that, you’ll find, of course, an image link that you can click to hear Sam’s reading of the work.  At the end, I’ll tell you just a little more about Sam.

But for right now, here are my printed words, and the audio of the unforgettable Sam Preston reading of my poem, “Canopy”…


John G. Stamos

Motors run, and the sound of rubber rolling on asphalt

Joins the din of people by the thousands

Looking at their screens

And making purchases, and jockeying for parking spaces.

I am here among the thousands,

And the noise and the smells of exhaust and indifference are in the air.

The places where people go,

The cities, the stores.  The works of humanity.  I am tiny here, surrounded

And unnoticed, and vulnerable, on a concrete sidewalk in the shadow of a building.


But I can close my eyes and roll back the years, and I am

With my dog, and with the old scabs on my knees,

And with the sound of my mother’s voice, behind us, in my ears.

“Be home before it’s dark.”

My short legs take me (and my dog’s legs take him)

To a place in my memory, a place beside the river,

Under a canopy of trees, where I hear

The swish of tadpoles swimming, and the beating of a dragonfly’s wings,

And where there’s fresh dirt on my knees.


It is summer.

I am beneath the canopy, with my dog

And the tadpoles, and the murmur of the river,

When a bird calls (a cardinal, by the sound) to his mate,

Who I am sure is feeding their babies.

My dog and a toad are nose to nose, and

The toad chirps, and my dog looks up at me.

It is summer, and we’re here beneath the canopy, my dog and I,

And the toad and the cardinals.  And I am nine.


I sit down on the ground beneath the cardinals’ tree and

My dog sits beside me.

I put an arm around him and I can feel his heart beating.

My other arm reaches around the trunk of the tree and,

Against the inside of my arm, I feel the rough and unblemished bark

That protects the secrets within this sheltering tree’s heart.

An ant inches across the dirt we sit on, my dog and I, and

Investigates every change in elevation, and pauses at every pebble,

And ascends the tree trunk.  Does he guess at the tree’s secrets?


Beneath the canopy, here in the shade of the tree, with the sun

Shining above and peering sometimes through the branches and the leaves,

My own heart beats in time with my dog’s, and the with the beating of wings,

And with the murmur of the slow little river, and with the song of the cardinals,

And with the pulse of an old tree’s life, and with the twitching of a squirrel’s nose.

Beneath the canopy, the secrets of the world are told and kept.

My hand rests on my dog’s head, and thoughts of what marching time

May show me in the years ahead

Are far away from me, as we sit beneath the canopy.


What matters most here is the ant’s plan, and the cocoons of caterpillars,

And a web that a spider has woven, and a turtle my dog now notices, who moves to

A sunny spot to bask on the bank across the lazy water, and

The fluttering dance of a little white butterfly.

Uncertain footsteps that stray along an unknown path are never taken or

Even considered here, beneath the canopy.

A lifetime of a million lifetimes, of a million guileless souls,

Is lived now, here, beneath the canopy, and

It enraptures a boy and his dog.


Fifty years is spanned with the opening of my eyes, in the shadow of a building.

The jostling, the exhaust, the indifference, the squealing tires

Hang in the oily, noisome air of the present.  How could it turn out like this?

Is this where that long ago uncertain path has always led?  To this morass?  Here,

Where there is no cocoon, no canopy, where all sides are exposed, then flanked?

I close my eyes, and the sound of my mother’s voice mingles with the purling of the river,

And, from beneath the canopy,

My dog and I watch six ducklings swim in a row, following their own mother and

The ways of the river.

“Canopy” ©2024.  John G. Stamos and The Renaissance Garden Guy

Please click the image link below to hear Sam Preston’s haunting reading of my poem, “Canopy.”

Remarkable, no?  Through her haunting performance, Sam has made this work her own…  

In fact, this very idea is one that Sam and I had recently discussed at some length.  A poem definitely does have a certain degree of intrinsic power as informed by its writer, but I believe, as does Sam, that it’s the internalization of a given work by its reader, and the expression of that work’s impact on and by the reader, that removes from it any authorial proprietary notions and allows its power and meaning to be individualized.  Sam’s performance, I believe, proves that this is so.

In Sam Preston’s life apart from gardening, she is the Safeguarding Director for SSS Learning in Cardiff, Wales, where she provides specialist support and leads the organization’s team of content authors.  The organization’s mission is to improve the lives of children and young adults through the development of support products designed to provide knowledge and understanding for all those entrusted to safeguard them.

Partly as a result of her work at SSS Learning, Sam’s public speaking training and experience is extensive.  Her approach does not follow a traditional lecturing paradigm but instead relies on her ability to connect individually with the members of her audience, regardless of its size, by conveying a meaningful, “pictorial” message.  This skill was, to me, clearly evident in her reading of the poem, “Canopy,” and was instumental in giving her reading its emotive power.

Further augmenting Sam’s ability to individualize and amplify the resonance of a creative work, like “Canopy,” is the fact that she is a lover of all forms of art and is herself both an author and a visual artist.  Although much of her writing these days is work-related content writing, podcast scripting, and article writing (both opinion and factual pieces), the creative impetus remains alive for Sam, and manifests itself not only in performances like today’s poetry reading, but in her home studio drawing and painting works.  Sam is adept in a variety of media, but really loves working with charcoal, particularly with reductive techniques.  Sam is decidedly private when it comes to showing her work, but I’m holding out hope that an example or two may one day be featured here in The Renaissance Garden Guy.

As far as Sam Preston’s RGG gardening forays are concerned, if you haven’t seen them, you’re not going to want to miss them.  Click here, and here, to take her fall and spring video garden tours, repectively, and click here to read her interview in which she explains her methodology for creating and maintaining her garden’s extensive ecosystem.

I also highly recommend giving Sam a follow on Twitter (X) at @Sam_SSSLearning, where you can keep up with Sam, her canine assistant Ted, and all of their gardening adventures as they unfold.

Well, gang, I hope that you’ve enjoyed Sam’s amazing reading of the poem, “Canopy.”  For me, it was a thrill and an immense honor to hear Sam’s gorgeous rendition of my work.  I am entirely grateful to her for this unforgettable performance and for her kindness to me.  And as always, my dear readers and subscribers, I am grateful to you for your own kind interest and readership.

Cheers, and Happy Gardening!

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10 thoughts on “A Reading of the Poem, “Canopy””

  1. Got goosebumps listening to this … it’s a very beautiful piece by itself, but listening to it read by her beautiful voice, it’s haunting, emotional, and heart-touching, and so much more !!! ABSOLUTELY BEAUTIFUL 🌹🌹🌹❤️

    1. Thank you so much, Roxxy. I’m glad you liked the piece, and I’m so happy you appreciated Sam’s reading. She’s got a remarkable voice, and an incredible sense of the work. I believe that her reading of it was breathtakingly beautiful. Again, Roxxy, thank you so much for listening to the reading, and for your kind and beautiful words.

  2. Beautiful John. We were the lucky ones. Growing up outside without our computers and phones were blessings. Wouldn’t trade it for the world.

    1. Thank you so much, Everly. I’m so happy that you liked this work. I do feel that Sam’s reading added an entirely new dimension to the words. And yes, you’re absolutely right. We were the lucky ones. Not only did we not have the digital/electronic world and its trappings competing for our attention in those days, I believe we were also lucky to have forebears who helped instill in us an appreciation for the natural world and its living gifts. As always, Everly, your perception is spot-on. Thank you once again.

  3. Words are amazing. A picture can be worth a thousand words. This reading of words has brought those words to life.
    What a great collaboration.

    1. Thank you so much, Rick. I’m so glad you enjoyed Sam’s reading. I feel honored that she performed it, and by your own kind words, as well. Thanks once again, Rick.

  4. I was moved by the poem, “Canopy,” when I first read it. But when I heard Sam read it I could close me eyes and imagine standing there, watching he entire scene unfold right in front of me. Thank you, John, for writing such a beautiful poem, and thank you, Sam, for such a wonderful reading.

    1. Thank you, Kevin, for listening to Sam’s incredible reading of the work, and for leaving your wonderful thoughts here. I’m so glad you enjoyed the poem and Sam’s masterful, haunting reading. Thank you again, Kevin.

  5. It is such a beautifully haunting piece, I’m truly thrilled to have had the opportunity to voice your words, John.

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