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Poetry: Reference Materials

Research guide for the study of poetry

Reference Universe

reference universe

Specialized, subject encyclopedias can help a researcher save a lot of time.  Before diving into dense books or peer-reviewed journals, introductory articles found in reference material provide an overviewe of a topic and can help a researcher get a grounding and context to a research topic.  Browsing entries in these encyclopedic works can help refine a search.

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Full-Text Poetry

Columbia Granger's World of Poetry

Indexes approximately 250,000 poems in anthologies & includes approximately 13,000 full text poems. Biographical and bibliographical data is included on a few hundred leading poets.


Literature Online (LION) is a searchable library of more than 350,000 works of English and American poetry, drama and prose, 192 full-text literature journals, and other key criticism and reference resources. The Poets On Screen Library contains 839 clips of poets reading their own and other poets' work.


Includes more than 126,500 full-text poems, 850,000 poem citations and excerpts, 5,000 full-text short stories, 2,800 full-text essays, 1,800 full-text speeches, and 1,000 full-text plays. LitFinder also includes biographies, work summaries, photographs, and a glossary.

Twentieth-Century American Poetry

Contains 50,000 poems by over 300 poets. The complete text of each poem has been included, and any integral textual images and illustrations have been scanned. Additional information relating directly to the poetry, such as prefaces or introductions, has been keyed. Any prose sections of the volumes that are significant to the works have also been included.

Twentieth-Century English Poetry

A collection of 598 volumes of poetry by 283 poets from 1900 to the present day, including W.B. Yeats, Rudyard Kipling, Thomas Hardy, Wilfred Owen, Thom Gunn, Fleur Adcock, Paul Muldoon, Tony Harrison, Benjamin Zephaniah and Carol Ann Duffy, and incorporating the poets in The Faber Poetry Library.

Getting Started | Reference Material

Subject dictionaries, encyclopedias, and handbooks typically provide background essays, definitions, broad overviews of various topics, or other pertinent facts. They also provide a quick overview of authors and their works. 



A bibliography refers to essays (in books or journals about a literary work. It does not typically contain the actual critical essay. Instead, the index lists where (in what book, journal, etc.) the essay is found.

American and British Poetry:A Guide to Criticism

Articles on American and British Literature

Articles on Twentieth Century Literature

Greek and Roman Authors: A Checklist of Criticism

Guide to American Poetry Explication

Guide to British Poetry Explication

Guide to French Poetry Explication

Index to Criticisms of British and American Poetry

Literary Criticism Index

Poetry Explication


Biography and Brief Criticism


Contemporary Poets

Contemporary Women Poets

Critical Survey of Poetry English Language Series

Critical Survey of Poetry Foreign Language Series

Dictionary of Literary Biography

Encyclopedia of World Literature in the 20th Century

American Women Writers

Biographical Dictionary of Renaissance Poets & Dramatists

Reader's Guide to Fifty American Poets


Criticism Excerpts


Besides indexes that refer you to criticism, there are also resources that contain brief critical essays about authors and their works in the Reference Collection. These criticism excerpts are not comprehensive. Thus, if the work or author is not included in one of the resources listed below, be prepared to repeat your search in another appropriate set and/or use the indexes listed above.

Poetry Criticism (PC) — Ref PN 1010 .P499

Contemporary Literary Criticism (CLC) — Ref PN 771 .C59

Literature Criticism from 1400-1800 (LC) — Ref PN 86 .L56

Nineteenth Century Literature Criticism (NCLC) — Ref PN 761 .N5

Shakespearean Criticism (SC) — Ref PR 2965 .S43

Twentieth Century Literary Criticism (TCLC) — Ref PN 94 .T84

Black Literature Criticism (BLC) — Ref PS 153 .N5 .B556 1992


Literature Dictionaries


Dictionary of Literary Terms

Glossary of Literary Terms

Handbook to Literature

Poetry Dictionary

Poetry Handbook

New Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics

Columbia Granger's Dictionary of Poetry Quotations

Poet's Market


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