Library Resources, Research, Tools & Tips, Tutorials

A Guide to Researching Poetry

By Jeannie Hoag, Reference and Assessment Librarian

Tips for Researching Poetry

Among many other delightful signs of spring, April brings us National Poetry Month.  Springtime during a pandemic is a contradictory mix of delights and shadows–an imperfectly perfect opportunity for poetry.

This is the 25th year we’ve been graced with National Poetry Month. If you regularly recognize National Poetry Month, it might be a welcome reminder of normalcy. And if you’ve never celebrated this month but want to dip your toe into the waters of the poetry pond, you’ve chosen a great time to explore. Below, you will find a few tips to help you get started with poetry research. A proposal: keep it simple, and let subject terms do the hard work for you.

Tip #1: Start Local

First, let’s look at what’s happening on the local front. The library catalog makes it easy to identify works by Fordham faculty. Add in a few well-chosen limiters, and you can quickly pull together a list of books to dig into.

For example, by using the library catalog’s Advanced Search view, you can search using the subject terms “Fordham faculty author” and “poetry.” You’ll come away with a list of books of poetry, or books about poetry, by our very own faculty members. (This works for other topics, too.)

Search the library catalog for subject terms such as “Fordham faculty author” and “poetry.”

If you’re interested in exploring beyond Fordham, you can simply use the subject term “poetry” to find all the resources that are poetry-related. With over 35,000 results, that may be a bit overwhelming, so consider using some of these more specific subject terms:

  • Narrative poetry
  • Prose poems
  • Modern poetry
  • Jesuit poetry

And for focusing on poetry craft and technique, consider:

  • Poetry authorship
  • Poetry teaching
  • Poetry criticism

If you’re able to visit the Walsh or Quinn libraries, might enjoy browsing by using this list of Library of Congress call numbers for Languages and Literatures. Some of the best discoveries come by way of serendipity. Even easier, pay a visit to the Poetry Room on the 3rd floor of Walsh Library, where you’ll find poetry spanning continents and centuries.

Tip #2: Get Specialized

Do you have a specific poetry need? Maybe a line has been zipping around, unidentified, all week. Or perhaps you’re officiating a wedding, dedicating a building, or tasked with making a public pronouncement that would benefit from a well-chosen poem.

Whatever your scenario, try Columbia Granger’s World of Poetry. This database provides a hearty amount of information, including the full text of some poems, author information, and subject indexing (497 poems about hair, 2 about haggis). It even notes applicable anthologies.

Columbia Granger’s World of Poetry.

As with all our databases, you can locate Columbia Granger’s via the Databases tab on the library website. The advanced search option gives you maximum control, while the browse option is great for those who are just looking.

Tip #3: Expand Your Horizons

As you can see, the field of poetry is delightfully nuanced. If you’ve exhausted Fordham Libraries’ coverage of your area of interest, look globally to WorldCat.

WorldCat is a powerhouse “world catalog,” and is located on the library website under Resources.

Using the same Library of Congress subject terms you used in your library catalog search, you can see what’s available on your topic at libraries worldwide. For example, using the advanced search option in WorldCat, you can search for other books with the subject of poetry authorship.

WorldCat subject search for “poetry authorship”

In the results, books at Fordham are clearly labeled.

Search result for “A Poetry Handbook,” which shows that the Fordham Libraries have the book.

Find something interesting that’s not at Fordham? You can request it through ILLiad, our interlibrary loan service. And if it’s something you think Fordham should have, you can suggest it for purchase.

What Else?

The Fordham Libraries has many excellent books and great databases for researching poetry. Whether you’re looking for literary criticism, biographies, or individual poems, we’ve got you covered. The Poetry research guide is full of recommended resources. Not finding what you’re looking for? Just ask a librarian. Our chat service is staffed 24/7, and you can also email our library liaisons directly.

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