Friday Reads: Cape Cod in Poetry

Since April is National Poetry Month what better time to share a little gem of a poetry book I just discovered yesterday.  A patron emailed the reference department to say that she had read that there was a poem dedicated to each town on the Cape, and could we get her a copy of the Falmouth poem.  I hadn’t heard of their being such a series of poems, but it sure sounded like a possibility.  If it didn’t exist already, what a great project for someone.   Now that you mention it, given our rich literary heritage, each Cape town should have an official poem, much like each state having an official bird.

Well, I did some sleuthing and came up with several poems about Falmouth, although none of them were labeled “official town poem,” and the fact that Falmouth appointed its first and only Poet Laureate in 2012, Adelaide Cummings.  Also during my searching, I discovered a nifty little old book:  Cape Cod in Poetry edited by Joshua Freeman Crowell and Florence Hathaway Crowell.  It was published in 1924 by the Four Seas Company of Boston and bears an old stamp from when we were known as “Falmouth Free Public Library”.

Cape Cod in Poetry nearly fits the bill for having what the patron described as a poem dedicated to each town on the Cape.  Orleans and Bourne are not included, but several villages are, such as Craigville, Pocasset and Wianno.  Most towns had a couple poems each, but Falmouth, which appears first for some reason, has nine.  Most are by Katharine Lee Bates, author of the poem America the Beautiful, who was born in Falmouth in 1859.  I used this book and others to answer the patron’s question about a copy of a Falmouth poem, but I neglected to mention that there were poems about most other towns on the Cape in it as well.  To my surprise, the patron replied that she already owned a copy of the book and she had purchased it at one of the annual book sales our Friends of the Falmouth Public Library hold around the fourth of July!

The editor, Joshua Freeman Crowell, was a poet and writer of children’s books.  His goal in creating this anthology was to “preserve first, for the friends and lovers of the Cape, the essence of the historical and local spirit; and with that, provide characteristic examples of the work of the more widely known poets who were either born on, or were, in some way, associated with the Cape.”  My favorite part of the book is the index by locality with biographical notes.  You can look up a town and see a list of poets whose work is included in that section.  Most entries also include a biographical note, such as “birthplace,” “visitor,” or “summer resident.”  For instance, did you know Conrad Aiken was a former resident of South Yarmouth, Edna St. Vincent Millay summered in Truro and that Joseph C. Lincoln was born in Brewster and summered in Chatham? I was tickled to find out.

If you would like to make your own interesting discoveries about Cape Cod in Poetry, you can find this book in the local history collection in the reference room.  Due to its importance and fragility, it cannot be checked out, but you are welcome to find a cozy seat by a window and enjoy it in the library for as long as you like.  Stop by the reference desk and we’ll share it with you.

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