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British & American Poetry Research Guide

Finding a Poem

Poems can be found in anthologies, online sources and collected volumes. Indexes can help you help you find what you are looking for. Here is a selection of sources available in the library.

Of course, there are many more resources than those listed here, but this should give you an idea of what we have.


Columbia Granger's Index to Poetry in Anthologies (Ref. Z7156 .A1 .K38 1994)
Includes title, first line, and last line indexes for approximately 400 poetry anthologies. Useful in helping locate poems when you have limited information about them.
New Anthology of American Poetry: Traditions and Revolutions, Beginnings to 1900 (PS 586. N49 2003)
Excellent survey of pre-twentieth century poetry, spanning a 400-year period. Around 50 writers are featured chronologically, including Poe, Dickinson and Melville. There is a short essay on each poet, text of important poems, and suggestions for further reading.
Twentieth Century American Poetry (Ref. PS614 .A5)
Poetry is arranged in chronological sections including “Realism and Naturalism” and “Early Modernism”. Each section is accompanied by a historical and critical overview, which helps to put the work in context. Indexes are by author and title. An excellent place to find U.S. poetry of the last century from the likes of Pound, Frost and T.S. Eliot.
Invitation to Poetry (PN6101. I56 2004)
Selection of poems from all time periods from around the globe (some in translation). Very browseable volume with works from writers as diverse as Beckett, Burns and Keats. Includes quotations from the poets, and an index of names, titles and first lines. A good introduction to some of the major poets.
Contemporary Irish Poetry (PR8858 .C56 1988)
Anthology includes indexes of author names, titles and first lines. Focuses on Irish Poetry of the 20th century including Kavanagh, Heaney and Paulin. Some notes are included on key poems, as are photographs of each poet. Very good source for Irish poetry published between 1900 and 1988.
Modern Irish Poetry: An Anthology (PR8858 .M63 1995)
Features fifty 20th century Irish poets and a sample of their writing. Very useful short biographies of each writer are included. Indexes are by name, first line and title. Focuses largely on writing in the English language, but does include some translations from the original Gaelic.
Index to Black Poetry (Ref. PS153. N5 .C45)
Index to over 100 anthologies and collections of black poetry. Indexes are by first line, author, title, and subject. Although only deals with work before 1974, still a very useful tool for locating black poetry.
Survey of American Poetry (Ref. PS507 .S827 1982)
Ten volume set includes 1–2 page biographies and full poems. Volumes are arranged by time period. Excellent A-Z index of poem titles, last lines and poet names. Index gives volume and page number of information sought.
New Oxford Book Of Eighteenth Century Verse (Ref. PR1215 .N48 1984)
Updated in 2003, this volume gives a sample of the best verse of the period, from figures such as Pope, Goldsmith and Blake. Less prominent writers have been added to this edition.
Oxford Book of Nineteenth Century English Verse (Ref. PR 1221 .O79)
Around 1,000 pages of poetry from the 1800s. Outstanding names from this period include Coleridge, Wordsworth and Byron. Focuses on English and Irish poetry only.
Oxford Book of Twentieth Century English Verse (Ref. PR1225 .L3)
Includes the best of English and Irish poetry of the century before 1973. Large contributions from Auden, Yeats and Lawrence. A particularly interesting volume as the selection was made by Philip Larkin, himself a highly regarded poet of the 1950s and '60s.


Lost Titles, Forgotten Rhymes
This guide is intended to help readers identify a literary work when they know only its plot or subject, or other textual information such as a character's name, a line of poetry, or a unique word or phrase.
Poets' Corner
Web resource with the text of 6,725 works. Poems are from 780 different poets with a scope from medieval ballads to contemporary verse. Site is searchable by author, title and subject indexes.
Lit Finder
Database of 125,000 full-text poems and 800,000 citations. Very comprehensive reference source and particularly useful as it contains more than 25,000 copyrighted works. This site also includes essays and study guides.
Poetry Archive
Website specializing in classical poems with over 5,000 posted to date. The database can be searched by poet name, first line or poem title. Full text searching is not available at present. Plusses of the site are its clean design and limited advertising.
Google Book Search
Database allowing previews of books and some full versions to download. Full-text of books published before 1923 may be available as they are no longer subject to copyright law in the U.S. Examples include Shakespeare's sonnets and the poetic works of Edgar Allan Poe. An excellent feature is that the text of books is fully searchable.
Representative Poetry Online
This site surveys 1,400 years of poetry in English. You can search through a variety on indexes including titles, first lines and keywords. From the University of Toronto, the site includes an excellent section specific to Canadian poetry.


Information on Poets

Biographies are the best place to start if you are looking for information about poets. Below are a range of print and online resources. You may first want to consult the Biographies Master Index.


Twentieth-Century Author Biographies Master Index (Ref. Z5304 .A8783 1984)
Index of the biographies of 170,000 writers including many poets. Compiled from over 100 dictionaries, handbooks and encyclopedia including Contemporary Authors and the Dictionary of Literary Biography.
Who's Who in Twentieth Century World Poetry (Ref. PN1271 .W46 2002)
Brief A-Z biographies of the most important world poets of the century. Besides the major figures there are more unorthodox choices such as Linton Kwesi Johnson and Leonard Cohen. First published in 2000, this is a valuable record of the entire century.
Contemporary Poets (Ref. PR603 .C6 2001)
Focus is on twentieth century poetry written in English. Included with each entry is a biography, a list of their published work, and an essay on each. Published in one volume of 1,500 pages. Entries are arranged alphabetically with excellent indexes by poet nationality and poem title.
Contemporary Women Poets (Ref. PS151 .C67 1998)
Biographical information on around 250 women poets. Each entry includes list of publications, comments from the author, and a short evaluation of their work. Very good source for information on women that may not otherwise be found in general biography volumes.
Reader's Guide to Fifty American Poets (Ref. PS303 .J63 1980)
Features 2–3 page essays on prominent American poets including Whitman, Longfellow and Ginsberg. Biographical and bibliographical information included for each figure. Although published in 1980 still a good introductory source to the major US poets.
Cambridge History of American Literature (Ref. PS92 .C34 1994)
Volume 8 of the series is dedicated to Poetry and Criticism. Biographies of poets are a major feature. Also included is an essay on U.S. poetry, a chronology from 1940 to 1995 and a bibliography of books on American verse.
William Butler Yeats Encyclopedia (Ref. PR5906 .M44 1997)
Excellent companion to the poems of the Irish writer. Gives an A-Z of poems, concepts and other poet's names. Very comprehensive index included as well as a chronology of Yeats' life. Selected bibliography covers reference material, collected works, letters, biography and criticism.
Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia (Ref. PS3230 .W35 1998)
Comprehensive work compiled by over 200 contributors. Main section is comprised of 750 A-Z entries, each with a bibliography. Entries are poem titles, subject headings, other poet's names and magazine titles among others. Recommended for all students working on Whitman.
Oxford Companion to Shakespeare (Ref. PR2892 .O94 2001)
Encyclopedia devoted to the life, work and times of Shakespeare. Comprehensive A-Z listing, with an index by theme. Contains some useful features including a chronology and a Royal Family tree from Shakespeare's time. The sonnets are well represented.

Online Databases

Biography Reference Bank
Contains more than 95,000 biographies and obituaries and more than 26,000 photographs of the subjects. Many of the biographies are enhanced with full text, abstracts, and citations. Full text of the articles from more than 100 volumes of biographical reference books including all the articles from the World Author Series.
Dictionary of Literary Biography
Brief, critical biographies about literary authors. Includes biographical analysis, literary critiques, bibliographies, primary sources, annual literary highlights, and images. Use the "Browse Authors" search to find an author most efficiently.
Gale Virtual Reference Library
This is a collection of online encyclopedias, which includes biographical information about poets and others.


Criticism & Analysis

There is a huge amount of criticism on poetry in books, journals, newspapers, online resources and more. Here I provide you with some of the best places to look.

Online Databases

MLA International Bibliography
The most important literary database, MLA indexes journals of literary criticism in all languages. Searching for poems by title works for the most famous poems, but most of the time, searching by the name of the poet and a keyword is more effective. Titles and sometimes abstracts are listed here, but you will have to use Find It to get full text.
Full-text access to academic journals across all disciplines. Less comprehensive than MLA, but the full-text searching is very useful when looking for information on a specific poem. Does not include materials from the most recent 3-5 years.
Humanities Source
Provides broad coverage of the humanities generally, including literature, art history, the performing arts, and music.
Project MUSE
Searchable full-text journals in many disciplines, but especially strong in literature, history and related fields.
World Shakespeare Bibliography Online
Premier online database indexing scholarship on Shakespeare.


Victorian Poetry (Periodicals PR500 .V5)
Journal exclusively dealing with the study of poetry from the Victorian period (1830–1914) in Britain. Started in 1963, it is valuable for its discussion of poetry in the context of cultural and social issues of the time.
Times Literary Supplement (Periodicals PN501 .T22)
Articles from the Times of London Literary Supplement from 1962 to 1973 (to 1994 on microfilm). Includes book reviews and other articles. Very valuable source for contemporary views on twentieth century poetry.
Emily Dickinson Journal (Project Muse)
Journal devoted to the study of the American poet Emily Dickinson. Founded in 1991, an essential tool for students studying her work. Wide ranging articles including essays, book reviews and conference papers.
Shakespeare Quarterly (Periodicals PR2885 .S63)
Journal dedicated to scholarship in Shakespeare studies. Majority of articles are on the dramatic works, but some material is relevant to the sonnets and other poems. Founded in 1950.


Guides & Handbooks

These texts provide background information on movements in poetry, and issues surrounding them.

Oxford Companion to Twentieth Century Poetry in English (Ref. PR601 .O9 1994)
Comprehensive A-Z covers topics, movements, magazines, genres and poets since 1900. Includes a 3-page selection of anthologies. Slight bias towards English poets but Americans after 1960 are more prominent. Also a good representation of Canadian and Australian poetry.
Companion to Twentieth Century Poetry (Ref. PR601 .C56 2001)
Essays on poetry in the English language. Wide scope including discussion of work from 20 different territories including India and the Caribbean. Excellent index of poet's names and useful bibliographies accompanying each essay, citing articles and books.
Companion to Victorian Poetry (PR591 .C66 2002)
Series of essays on major issues of Victorian poetry and culture. Poets addressed include Coleridge, Yeats, Tennyson, Browning, Wordsworth and Mangan. Useful Index of names.
Twentieth Century Literary Movements Index (Ref. Z6514 .L57 .T9 1991)
A-Z listings of 500 movements and 3,000 authors. Movements featured include Imagism, Existentialism and Celtic Renaissance. Each entry includes the national origin and the main time period for each movement. Many in the field of poetry are listed.
New Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics (Ref. PN1021 .E5 1990)
Volume of terms related to poetic forms, genres, devices and movements. Comprehensive explanations given for each entry with a bibliography. Contains excellent sections on lesser-covered English language poetry from Canada, Australia and New Zealand.



This selection of dictionaries may be useful if you are looking for definitions of poetic terms or quotations.

Poet's Dictionary (Ref. PN44.5 .P3 1989)
Guide to understanding the composition and structure of poetry. Entries are alphabetical and include Accent, Myth, Irony and Couplet. Includes a bibliography and many examples of verse to help explain the concepts discussed.
Longman Dictionary of Poetic Terms (Ref. PN1042 .M94)
A-Z of poetic terms including Cliches, Forms and Imagery. Extremely thorough, and gives lines of verse to illustrate the terms used. Very useful companion for students attempting to better understand criticism and theory on poetry.
Columbia Granger's Dictionary of Poetry Quotations (Ref. PN6082 .C57 1992)
Quotations are listed alphabetically by writer surname. Includes lines and some full verses of poetry. Quotes are taken from 4,000 poems featured in Columbia Granger's Index to Poetry. Very good indexing, by subject and keyword.
Chaucer Name Dictionary (Ref. PR1903 .D4 1988)
Information on personal names from the poetry of Geoffrey Chaucer. Also featured are the names of gods and goddesses. Each entry has four sections: bibliographical and historical information, Chaucer's use of the name, the etymology of the name, and bibliographical information on the entry.


Website from the Academy of American Poets featuring an audio archive. In total 700 clips are available to listen to, including poems from Robert Frost, Dylan Thomas and Langston Hughes. Very valuable resource as hearing poetry can provide a new perspective on the verse.
Voices and Visions (Media Video PS614 .V64 1995)
Series of thirteen 60-minute documentaries on poetry in America. Each film focuses on a different American poet including Pound, Whitman, Plath and Eliot. High quality production from PBS.


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