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Poetry Resources

Poetry Criticism: Definition

Poetry Criticism does not mean "to find fault with" but to investigate, analyze, interpret, and evaluate poetry.

"Poetry Criticism" is also used to refer to scholarly writing about the historical background of a poem. "Poetry Criticism" is simply a specific version of "Literary Criticism," which is more general and includes writing about novels, plays, short stories, and essays. This guide includes the following terms, which relate to poetry criticism: analysis, context, interpretation, critical information, and critical writing. The words "Bibliography" and "Bibliographical" refer to lists of books or journal and magazine articles.

Literature: The Bigger Picture

If you are researching a poet who is a member of an ethnic group, is identified with a particular movement, or otherwise has been identified in a specific way, be sure to consult relevant reference books. Many books have been published about writers (including poets) from the following groups:

  • Female poets
  • African-American, Asian-American, Native-American, and Latin-American poets
  • Gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender poets
  • Political poets (e.g. Black Arts movement, feminist poets)
  • Poets associated with a school or movement (e.g. Beat poets, Black Mountain poets, Symbolist poets)

Also try searching for reference books based on a writer's nationality or region of birth, i.e. American Writers, British Writers, or European Writers.

Searching with key words
For example, you could try searching for "Women and Literature" or "Beat Literature" in the Library Catalog. When you find a book that looks relevant, click on the title and look at the Subjects field; the subjects are hot links to other, similar books!

Examples of Subjects you might find:

  • Feminist literary criticism
  • Feminism and literature
  • African American poets
  • Harlem Renaissance

Reference Books: Dictionaries, Encyclopedias, and Handbooks

Reference books are excellent starting points - find information on poets' lives and their work.

Contemporary American Ethnic Poets: lives, works, sources. A dictionary of 75+ poets from 12 ethnic backgrounds. Includes emerging and established poets.
Location: Stacks - PS153 .M56 C66 2004

Contemporary Poets 7th edition. Includes biographies and bibliographical references for American and English poets of the 20th and 21st Centuries.
Location: Reference - PR603 .C6 2001
Location: BMCC Databases (Gale Virtual Reference)

Contemporary Women Poets Provides biographical, bibliographical, and critical information on approximately 250 well-known or emerging women poets of the 20th and 21st centuries. Most of the poets write in English, but some non-English writing poets are included. Includes an index by nationality.
Location: Reference - PS151 .C67 1998

New Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics
Excellent, indispensable resource for looking up poetry terms, schools, and movements (e.g., Sestina, Free Verse, and Feminist Poetics).
Location: Reference - PN 1021 .N39 1993

Notable Poets (3-volume series)
A dictionary with biographical, critical, and historical information about famous poets from all over the world and from all time.
Location: Reference Desk - PN1021 .N68 1998

Princeton Handbook of Multicultural Poetries
Excellent resources for learning more about poetic history and practice from 106 cultures and 92 national literatures, from ancient to contemporary (i.e. Indian Poetry, Greek Poetry, and Swahili Poetry).
Location: Stacks - PN 1021 .N392 1996

World Poets (3-volume series)
Biographies of 107 poets from around the world and from all time, analyses of their works, and thematic essays (i.e. Asian American Poetry).
Location: Reference - PN1021 .W67 2000

Periodicals, Serials, and Indexes

  • Columbia Granger's World of Poetry
    Contains all three Granger's indexes to poetry: The Columbia Granger's Index to Poetry in Anthologies, editions 8-12; The Columbia Granger's Index to Poetry in Collected and Selected Works, editions 1-2; and The Columbia Granger's Index to African-American Poetry. This is a terrific database for locating a poem. Includes hundreds of full-text poems, too.
    Location: BMCC Databases (Columbia Granger's World of Poetry)

  • Critical Survey of Poetry. 2nd rev. ed. (8-volume series)
    Definitive series that includes critical writing about the work of English and non-English language poets. Arranged alphabetically by poet. Vol. 8 includes "Poetry Around the World" essays (i.e. Latino Poetry) and "Research Tools."
    Location: Reference - PN1021 .C7 2003

  • Literature Resource Center
    A gigantic database containing full text of many electronic reference books and full-text journal articles from more than 260 journals. Includes a version of the MLA International Bibliography database with citations to journal articles published from 1963 to present and many full-text journal articles. (If full text is not available, check the Library Catalog to see if the library owns the journal in print or on microfilm.)
    Location: BMCC Databases (Literature Resource Center)

  • Poetry Criticism : excerpts from criticism of the works of the most significant and widely studied poets of world literature. (19 volumes)
    Location: Reference - PN 1010 .P499
    Location: BMCC Databases (Literature Resource Center)

Full-Text Poetry Online

Academy of American Poets
Not everything is full text here, but much is. Nearly 1,800 poems are available as well as hundreds of essays from the National Poetry Almanac and interviews from American Poet magazine.

Digitized poetry anthologies and volumes-- most first published in the early 20th Century.

Columbia Granger's World of Poetry (BMCC Database)
Provides the full text of thousands of poems, from commonly studied poems to lesser known contemporary poems, most from the Western tradition.

NetLibrary: e-Books (BMCC Database)
A rich collection of electronic books (e-books), including hundreds of books of poetry, poetry criticism, and literary criticism.

Poetry Foundation
Need to find a full-text poem? Look here! The Poetry Foundation website is searchable, and it also allows you to "drill down" to find poems by poet, catagory, occasion, title, and more. There is more full-text, contemporary poetry here than on any other free website (and even more than in many of the library's subscription databases). Poetry Foundation published the famous Poetry magazine, in print since 1912.

Project Gutenberg
The largest collection of free electronic books (from the public domain) on the Internet. Features more than 250 complete volumes of poetry, including works by Aristotle, Homer, Shakespeare, William Blake, Goethe, Rilke, Edna St.Vincent Millay, and T.S. Eliot.

Representative Poetry Online
Includes over 3,000 English poems by 500 poets from Caedmon, in the Old English period, to the work of living poets today. Try browsing the Poets arranged chronologically.

Web Resources

Academy of American Poets
A great resource for biographical information; audio files (poets reading their work); definitions of poetic terms, schools, and movements; and full-text poetry by authors from all time and from all over the world.

Modern American Poetry
A clearinghouse focused on the historical background and analyses of poems published in the Anthology of Modern American Poetry (Oxford UP). Includes excerpts from published books and journals as well as original scholarship written for the website - in some cases the only critical writing on a particular poem. Prose by poets, interviews with poets, analyses of entire books, and other writings are included, too.

The People's Poetry Project
Includes links to the annual People's Poetry Gathering in New York City and an interactive World Poetry Map. Don't miss the excellent Linkography page, which leads you to other outstanding poetry websites.

Compiled by Susan Thomas, Evening and Weekend Librarian ( )