A Cape Eye On Books’ Must Reads For April, National Poetry Month

Some of the April book choices for National Poetry Month.

Some of the April book choices for National Poetry Month.

In celebration of National Poetry Month, here are two thoughts to ponder. From Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau: “We need poets to change the world.” And from researchers at the University of Exeter in England, a study listing the positive effects that reading poetry has on the brain, among them that it stimulates the areas linked to memory, makes people more self aware, and boosts brain power. In short, reading poetry is good for you!

It makes me happy to know this, just as I like knowing that this narrow piece of land where we reside has harbored poets for centuries. Whether native born or, as are so many artists, drawn here by some ineffable quality that stimulates creativity, the list is long and peopled with names significant in our nation’s literature. Among them: Mark Doty, Mary Oliver, Brendan Galvin, Stanley Kunitz, Marge Piercy, Robert Pinsky, Edna St Vincent Millay. These poets and countless others till our world using the tools of words, insight, and the gift of metaphor to give us a new way of seeing.

Beyond that, poetry connects us. “No wall – between people, countries, cultures, generations, even between this world and the next – can withstand a good poem,” writes Kim Rosen in ‘Saved by a Poem.’ “Its words and silences transport us below the surface, where separation breeds into an intimacy with self and others that many of us have forgotten.”

I thought of this when talking with this month’s Featured Author, the poet and essayist Jim Tilley. He spoke about the relevance in today’s world of poetry and he relayed a story about when his father was dying last year.

“An image or a line tends to stay with you forever,” he said. “When my father was in his final stages of dementia, the one thing he could recall was poetry. Whether a little nonsense verse or elevated work like Shakespeare’s Henry V, the line ‘We few, we happy few, we band of brothers’ from the Saint Crispin’s Day speech, my father could recite it without a slip. As sad as his demise was, it was lightened for me, and I hope for him, by the poetry he was still able to recite.”


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In the coming weeks check back in for more about Jim Tilley and our Featured Bookstore for April, The Yellow Umbrella Books in Chatham where the owner, Eric Linder, is also a poet. Until then, I invite you to reflect on the following thought: When an interviewer once asked the former U.S. Poet Laureat W. S. Merwin how he created a poem he responded, “I hear something and if I listen very closely and work at it, maybe it will turn into a poem.”

What poetry do you think we might create in our own lives if, like the poets, we listened and paid attention? Your response to this? Please join the conversation.

My book selections this month are comprised of four books that have deepened and expanded my appreciation of poetry and the fifth is the most recent novel from the gifted Lauren Groff.



“Fooling With Words: A Celebration of Poets and Their Craft,” by Bill Moyers: The title “Fooling With Words” lends a deceptively light tone to this collection by the insightful Moyers as he shares conversations and insights with poets about their craft

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“A Poetry Handbook: A Prose Guide to Understanding and Writing Poetry,” by Mary Oliver: An in-depth look at the scholarship inherent in creating a poem that even a casual reader will find enhances one’s appreciation of the craft.


“The Poetry Home Repair Manual: Practical Advice for Beginning Poets” by Ted Kooser: In this small handbook, Kooser illustrates, as he does in his poetry, that he can be both “assessable and truly excellent.”


“Still Life With Oyster and Lemon,” by Mark Doty: Books like this, that address the sources of creation and the sources of our humanness, come along once in a decade,” write Susan Salter Reynolds in the Los Angeles Times.


“Fates and Furies,” by Lauren Groff. A portrait of a 25-year marriage told in alternating voices of the husband and wife that delves far below the surface by a powerful writer.

Anne LeClaire

Anne LeClaire

Anne LeClaire is the best-selling author of eight novels, the latest of which is “The Lavender Hour.” A Cape Eye On Books is CapeCod.com’s online book club.

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