Find a poem

1. Use the library catalog to find collections of poems by your writer. Often there will be a title similar to The Complete Works of Your Poet. Check that book's index for the page location of your poem.

For example, to find a poem by English poet John Donne, go to the library catalog. Fill in "donne, john" as Author. The entries listed are both his poems and his sermons, so examine the right column for ways to narrow the search. Choose Classification P -- Language and literature.




2. Another great place to find the text of a poem is Columbia Granger's World of Poetry, listed on the Falvey home page under Databases A to Z or Subject Guides / English / Primary sources.

Some special features include the Poets Book of Days, Poetry Trivia questions and a featured poem, which right now is Byron's "She Walks in Beauty."

Search for elusive poems by title, poet, first line, last line, words in poem (puddle-wonderful), schools and movements (The Beats), gender of poet, era (Romantic Era), form (sonnet) and other defining features.


3. Use One Literatureto find a poem by searching Texts, on the left column. You can even search by a unique word: Who knew that both e. e. cummings and Lawrence Ferlinghetti use the riff "manunkind"?

Literature Online also features Poets on Screen, a YouTube of video clips of well-known poets reading their work and others'. One of my favorites is the late Robert Creeley reading John Milton's sonnet "On His Blindness," also entitled "When I Consider How My Light Is Spent."


4. If the poem was published in a magazine, use the Readers' Guide Full Text and Humanities Full Text for the last three decades, or Readers' Guide Retrospective and Humanities and Social Sciences Index Retrospective to go back to the early 1900s.  Modernist Journals Project provides access to the important magazines of the first fifty years of the 1900s.


Find poetry analysis

1. Literature Online(LION) contains critical interpretations of poems, published in journals or books.

Click on the left category Criticism and Reference and then Criticism



Find out more about Milton's Sonnet XIX, "When I Consider How My Light Is Spent," which contains the famous last line, "They also serve who only stand and wait."

Fill in your poet's name in the Subject blank (Milton) and the poem title in the Keyword blank (Sonnet XIX). By including the Journal Article Full Text option in the search, we retrieve numerous articles, some of which are available in their entirety.

If not full text on the database, click on Find It  findit.gif  to link to other full text providers, the library catalog or obtain the journal article or book from Iliad (interlibrary loan).


2. Literature Resource Center provides full text essays on specific poems: Do a "Works Search."


3. Other recommended places to find poetry interpretations published in journals and/or books are the MLA Bibliography, Humanities Full Text, and JStor, to name a few.

More literary database links can be found on the English Subject Guide page.


4. Books ABOUT poets and their works can also be found via the library catalog: Search the poet's name as a Subject, adding the key words: criticism  interpretation

keats criticism interpretation in the Subject field will pull up this book record, Critical Essays on John Keats, for example, as well as many others.

Search Google Books in the Advanced Search to find entries about specific poems. If the full text of the book cannot be retrieved, search the Falvey catalog for that particular book.


5. To find discussions of specific poems, use the Literature Criticism Online subset Poetry Criticism. You can retrieve a full text discussion and analysis of your poem.

6. The Dictionary of Literary Biography Online is a rich source of information about poets: their lives and important themes in their poems. Many images are also available, such as rough drafts of poems.

7. Two reference book series will lead you to specific poem explication printed in books and journals: the Guide to American poetry explication and the Guide to British poetry explication.  These are shelved in the reference collection.

8. MAPS, the Modern American Poetry Site, provides critical analysis of specific poems. This site is maintained by the English department at the University of Illinois.


Historical Context and Book Reviews

See the English Subject Guide page for book review sources and for current and historic newspapers to provide context.

Subject encyclopedias are available online through E-Reference Resources. The History or Literature links there connect you to trustworthy contextual information. For example, literary handbook can define and describe terms such as "sonnet," while historical encyclopedias explain an era's events and issues.


Need more help?

Most important, if you need help, contact the information desk (610.519.4270), a research librarian  or Sarah Wingo, the English subject librarian liaison.