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Poems - Locating and Researching Poetry

This guide explains how to find poems using the Catalog, indexes, and the Web; how to find words or passages of poetry when you don't know the name of the poem; how to find poems on various themes; and where to identify poetry criticism and biographical information about poets.

Using a Concordance To Find Words Or Passages In a Poem

Suppose you are writing a paper on William Butler Yeats and you remember the following phrase:

When shall the stars be blown about the sky,
Like sparks blown out of a smithy, and die?

The passage is relevant to your topic, but you can't remember which poem it's from. To find the passage, consult a CONCORDANCE. Concordances gather all the words of a certain work or author and arrange them in alphabetical order. Each word is followed by a citation to the appropriate line or passage where the word appears. Most concordances include the surrounding words or line in which the word appears. When using a concordance, try looking up an important word in the passage. For instance, if you look up "smithy" in the concordance of Yeats, you will find:


This tells you that the passage you are looking for is line 30 of the poem "The Secret Rose," which can be found on page 170 of the Variorum Edition of the Poems of W. B. Yeats. The introduction to the concordance will tell you which edition or volume the page number refers to. Some concordances refer to two or more editions for greater convenience, usually an "authoritative" edition or a variorum edition. (A variorum edition records differences in the various editions and/or manuscripts.) Remember, concordances don't contain the actual poems, they just tell you which poems contain the word you're looking for. You can then find the poem in the edition listed in the concordance or in any "complete" edition of the poet's works.

To find a concordance to the works of your poet, try a keyword search in the Catalog using the poet's name and the word concordance? The ? will retrieve records with "concordance" (usually used in the title) or "concordances" (usually used in the subject headings). For example:

yeats AND concordance?
lorca AND concordance?

You can also search for words and passages in a poem by using electronic texts on the Web. (See the next section on the World Wide Web , below.)

Using the World Wide Web To Find Poems Or Words and Passages In a Poem

The following websites provide access to full-text poems. You can also use these electronic texts to find words within a poem. Some sites have sophisticated searching capabilities. In websites that don't provide their own search engines, you can search the page by going to "Edit" in the upper toolbar. Pull down the menu and select "Find in page." Then type the word you are looking for in the box that appears in the middle of the screen. The word you're looking for will appear highlighted on the screen.


Literature Online
Full-text electronic versions of poetry, fiction, drama, and reference works; links to additional relevant web resources.

The On-Line Books Page
A collection of many types of texts, searchable by author, title, and subject.

Representative Poetry--University of Toronto Press
Vast index of poems searchable by poet, title, first line, date, or keyword. Also includes famous works of criticism and manifestos by poets (such as Shelley's "Defense of Poetry.")

Twentieth-Century Poetry in English
A large index of links to over 150 poets. Includes a guide to searching for poems on the WWW.

Electronic Poetry Center
A website devoted to contemporary experimental and innovative poetry. Produced by the University of Buffalo. The entire website is searchable by keyword. Includes audio files. Also includes a page of Links to Other Sites with Literary Audio.

Western Michigan University Index of Online Poetry
An index of links to poems from various periods. Mostly in English, but with a few Spanish and French poems. Arranged by author.


The Complete Works of William Shakespeare
Contains full texts of all the plays and poems, and a search engine for looking up keywords in the entire corpus, selected works, or selected genres (i.e., comedies, tragedies, histories, and poems). Includes a glossary of rare and archaic words.

American Verse Project
Specializes in pre-1920 American poetry. Includes many lesser-known poets. Advanced searching capabilities allow you to find elusive words or passages in individual poems or in the entire database.

Contemporary American Poetry Archive
This website specializes in contemporary poetry which is currently out of print.

Sonnet Central
Features sonnets arranged by period or alphabetically by author. Includes a bibliography of criticism, and Real Audio option.

Lesbian Poetry
Features about 20 poets, and includes selected poems, a brief biography, and links for each poet.

Internet Poetry Archive
Features the poetry of Czeslaw Milosz, Seamus Heaney, Philip Levine, Robert Pinsky, Margaret Walker, and Yusef Komunyakaa. Includes Real Audio option.


Electronic Text Collections in Western European Literature
Provides links to many electronic-text versions of European literature, organized by language.

Perseus Project
Provides full text of many ancient Greek and Latin works, along with English translations. Searchable by keyword, browsable by author.

ARTFL - American and French Research on the Treasury of the French Language
A vast database of French literature from the Middle Ages to the 20th century, searchable by author, title, date, genre, and keyword. An additional database showcases 38 works of Provencal poetry from the years 1130 to 1300.

A collection of literary works mostly in Spanish, but including some English and French works.

Poesía Mexicana
A collection of poems by Mexican Poets.

Using Indexes To Find Poems

The Columbia Granger's Index to Poetry in Anthologies
Lockwood Ref PN1022 .H39 2002

This resource tells you which anthologies contain the poem you are looking for. It is divided into three parts: Title and First Line, Author, and Subject.

Hoffman's Index to Poetry: European and Latin American Poetry in Anthologies
Lockwood Ref PN 1022 H627 1985

Covers 14,000 poems in Spanish, Portuguese, French, Provençal, German, Italian, Polish, Russian, and Ukranian. Includes only poems found in anthologies available in the United States. Searchable by Author, Title, and First Line.

Index of American Periodical Verse
Lockwood Ref Z1231 P7 I47

Provides access to poems from a broad cross section of poetry, literary, scholarly, popular, general, and "little" magazines, journals, and reviews published in the United States, Canada, and the Caribbean. Useful for locating contemporary poetry

Women's Poetry Index
Lockwood Ref PN 1024 G89 1985

Covers poems written by women, including many lesser-known poets and small-press anthologies not covered in Granger's. Searchable by Poet, Title, and First Line.

Poetry Themes
Lockwood Ref PN 1022 M3

If you are looking for poems on a particular theme or topic, this book lists anthologies as well as criticism on that topic. Themes covered include religion, myths, magic, the arts, history, the emotional world, etc.

International Index to Recorded Poetry
Lockwood Ref PN 1022 H63 1983

Covers 1,700 recordings from around the world. Search by Author, Title, First Line, Language, or Reader (the person reciting the poem).

Familiar Quotations
Lockwood Ref PN6081 .B18 1992 (with earlier editions in UGL, HSL, and the Law Library)

Also known as Bartlett's Familiar Quotations. "A collection of passages, phrases, and proverbs traced to their sources in ancient and modern literature." This does not cover as many poems as some of the other sources listed above, but it does include quotations from the middle of poems, rather than just first or last lines.

Specialized Poetry Sources

Colonial and Nineteenth-Century ( Guide to American Poetry Explication Series, Volume 1)
Lockwood Ref PS201 .R66 1989

Modern and Contemporary ( Guide to American Poetry Explication Series, volume 2)
Lockwood Ref PS221 .L38 1989

Guide to British Poetry Explication
Lockwood Ref Z2014.P7 M34 1991

Poetry explication: A checklist of Interpretation since 1925 of British and American Poems Past and Present
Lockwood Ref Z2014.P7 K8 1980

Biographical Information

Dictionary of Literary Biography (DLB)
Provides full-text access to over 9,000 critical and biographical essays on British and American authors from all eras and genres. Also provides lists of additional readings about the authors, such as published interviews and biographies.
Note: DLB can be searched in conjunction with Contemporary Authors and Contemporary Literary Criticism. Select "Search all Literature Databases" on main DLB search page.

African American Writers
Lockwood Ref PS153 N5 A344 1991

Latin American Writers
Lockwood Ref PQ7081 A1 L37 1989

Modern American Women Writers
Lockwood Ref PS151 M54 1991


Literature Online
Vast database of e-texts covering most areas of British and American poetry. Searchable by author, title, keyword, period, and gender of author (i.e., you can restrict your searches to either male or female poets). Tip: Click on the "Individual Literature Collections" at the bottom of the main page to access the poetry section.

MLA International Bibliography
Contains citations to books, journal articles and dissertations published on literature, modern languages, linguistics, and folklore.

See also: Resources for English and American Literature