Check it Out: Ideas to celebrate April, aka National Poetry Month

By Jan Johnston, Columbian book reviewer


photoJan Johnston is the Collection Development Coordinator for the Fort Vancouver Regional Library District. Email her at

If you’ve recently started humming to yourself, or noticed an extra spring in your step, I’ll bet I know why. It’s April! Who doesn’t like a month when the daffodils pop, robins chirp, and bunnies frolic? It practically cries out for the creation of a “Happiest Month of the Year” award, what with all of the springing forth of animal babies and cherry tree blossoms. Perhaps this is why April is National Poetry Month. Observing the natural world as it escapes from winter’s icy grip must surely spark the creative juices of poetry-minded folk.

To honor the poetic spirit of the fourth month of the year, I have decided not to focus on one specific book, but rather to shine the spotlight on a variety of titles. I find that poetry speaks to each person differently, so by devoting this column to all things poetic, I hope that at least one title will prompt you, the reader, to follow Robert Frost’s example in his lovely poem, “The Road Not Taken.”

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I —

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.


“Ask Me: 100 Essential Poems” by William Stafford.

“Book of Hours” by Kevin Young.

“Dog Songs: Thirty-Five Dog Songs and One Essay” by Mary Oliver.

“Later Poems: Selected and New, 1971-2012” by Adrienne Rich.

“Poetry of Witness: The Tradition in English, 1500-2001” edited by Carolyn Forche.

“Singing at the Gates: Selected Poems” by Jimmy Santiago Baca.


“The Haiku Apprentice: Memoirs of Writing Poetry in Japan” by Abigail Friedman.

“A Journey With Two Maps: Becoming a Woman Poet” by Eavan Boland.

“The Making of a Poem: A Norton Anthology of Poetic Forms ” by Mark Strand.

“The Ode Less Travelled: Unlocking the Poet Within” by Stephen Fry.

“The Poetry Home Repair Manual: Practical Advice for Beginning Poets” by Ted Kooser.

“World Enough and Time: On Creativity and Slowing Down” by Christian McEwen.


“The Children’s Classic Poetry Collection: 60 Poems by the World’s Greatest Writers” by Nicola Baxter.

“Hi Koo!: A Year of Seasons” by Jon J. Muth.

“Hip Hop Speaks to Children: A Celebration of Poetry With a Beat ” by Nikki Giovanni.

“Poem-Mobiles: Crazy Car Poems” by J. Patrick Lewis.

“Pug and Other Animal Poems” by Valerie Worth.

“We Go Together: A Curious Selection of Affectionate Verse” by Calef Brown.