Books That Broker Benevolence: Rhyme as Remedy Souls and Shelters

Article by MARY.L. HOLDEN

September is for problem solving—at least in this issue of In the Limelight, so here are reviews for two books with answers to tough problems: Homeless Hero: Understanding the Soul of Home, by Mike Tapscott, and Poetry Rx: How 50 Inspiring Poems Can Heal and Bring Joy To Your Life, by Norman Rosenthal, M.D.

Lack is the root of many problems. When it comes to housing and health, lack creates critical situations that necessitate answers, require critical thinking, and inspire compassion. Let the authors of these two books show you how they’ve addressed necessity, demonstrated brilliant logic, and wrote with compassion and grace.

Physiological requirements for human life—food and water, safety, and comfort—form the base of Abraham Maslow’s famous pyramid, the hierarchy of needs. When these basic needs are unmet, a person strives to fill a need, instead of growing through an ability to be curious, to love and be loved, to feel self-esteem, and achieve self-actualization.

People need homes for comfort and security. People need medicines to achieve health.

Researcher, psychiatrist, coach, and author Norman Rosenthal, M.D. wrote a book in the way of a prescription.

In it, he offers an entire pharmacy of poetry that people of all ages, races, cultures, abilities, positions, identities, and accomplishments can use for healing all types of afflictions, seen and unseen. Poetry Rx proves that words, when stirred together and made into poems, become forces of light imagery and sound vibration that add new energy to any spirit that feels weak, ill, or hopeless.

Every poem in this book was evaluated for its capacity to transform. Many of the works have stood the test of time and will sound familiar—until the intention of healing while reading or listening is applied. That’s why there’s an “Rx” in the title. To learn more about the genesis of this book, visit Dr. Rosenthal’s website at

Think about your relationship with poetry. When you have 58 seconds to spare, Dr. Rosenthal offers a message via YouTube about his Poetry Initiative and sounds a call to action for everyone:

Our world is a laboratory, and you can be part of the experiment when you share your story about poetry and healing.

In the meantime, roses still show up as red…and their fragrance is sweet and appealing…poetry touches both mind and heart…and now you can use it for healing. To be without shelter is a condition. Like illness, it brings a range of sensations that housed and well people don’t want to think about. But some do, and one in particular thought about it to the point of choosing to learn about it for himself. Then he wrote the book that anyone with compassion and concern for the unhoused can read, learn from, and perhaps hear their own call to action. Homeless Hero: Understanding the Soul of Home is available here:

In the late 2000s, Mike Tapscott, father of twins and a massage therapist and instructor, chose to spend some of his free time visiting the Lodestar Day Resource Center in Phoenix, Arizona. At the time, it was the largest shelter campus in the world; it had its own ZIP Code. Tapscott says, “I went there to interview both homeless individuals and those who help them. These interviews revealed several answers to the question, ‘What is homelessness?’ But homelessness is a phenomenon where even answers look like questions.”

Those interviews also led him to volunteer (he led a women’s discussion group where, at each meeting, he distributed roses, pens, and journals to the participants), and to conduct his own experiment of spending 24 hours on the streets. That night, at 12:45 a.m., unable to sleep or find comfort on the tile floor of a shelter’s lobby, and amidst a cacophony of coughing and snoring, the incoherent ramblings of a nearby man make Tapscott believe “I must be losing it, too, because I’m starting to see how they’re all related.”

There are two best parts of Homeless Hero. The first is the chapter titled “Resurrection” where Tapscott interviews Arlene Pfeiff, then Director of the Human Services Campus, and learns of her vision, a four-point plan, to create sustainability in a place that offers services for the populations in need of shelter and support services. The other is the subtitle itself: Understanding the Soul of Home. Tapscott said he saw “parallels between physical homelessness and spiritual homelessness. The big surprise was discovering the existence of homelessness within myself.” He came to the conclusion that “homelessness is not like a disease or a pathology. It is a path—also traveled by many people who enjoy a place they can call their own.”

Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard wrote: “Life is not a problem to be solved, but a reality to be experienced.” Illness is a problem that can be solved. Homelessness is a problem that can be solved. Although those two realities are harsh, the experience of reading beneficial books for and about them is always a solution.