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This LibGuide provides information on where to start when you read poetry and how to conduct a Close Reading, as well as general guidelines on how to research for papers.
If you need to write a paper on a poem or on a specific collection of poems, her are some helpful hints about research, followed by some databases that you will want to explore..
First, you will want to find out a little bit about the poet and the time period within which the poet wrote.
If you are working with a specific collection, does it cover a specific time period in history (e.g. poems about World War II, poems about the sexual revolution of the 1960s, poems about the Jim Crow South, etc.)? If so, you will want to research the time period.
If you are working with a specific poem, you may want to research subject matters or practices presented in a poem further (e.g. beliefs about reincarnation, why someone puts coins over the eyes of a dead person, etc.).
If you are working with a specific poem, you may want to do research about what was happening in a poet's life at this point. Be careful with this, though, as it is easy to fall prey to the biographical fallacy. Poems may or may not be related to events happening in a poet's life. So, it is important to be a discerning critic and analyst.
When you are searching a database, you may not find information on a specific poem, but you may find general articles on a poet's overall work. These are good articles with which to start your research.
Pair themes, conventions, or subjects that a poet may use (e.g. magical realism, heroic meter (dactylic hexameter or iambic pentameter), beauty and death, racism, etc.) with the poet's name when you are searching in the databases. This can help you get a sense of a poet's work in general terms. For example, you might pair "Pablo Neruda" and "communism" and "poems" when you type your search terms into a databases's search boxes.
Some poets have also written theoretical works where they present their own ideas about poetry, and these are also good to use (e.g. Edgar Allan Poe's "The Philosophy of Composition," Ezra Pound's "A Few Don'ts," etc.). This is a great way to get into the mind of the poet.
You may also want to research a poet's letters, as these sometimes include some great insight into a poet's thought processes, especially if the poet has dedicated a poem or a collection of poetry to a specific person.
There are many famous poems with a lot of articles written about them, so make sure that you have multiple search terms in mind when you conduct your research.
This site is great as a first stop when you are researching a poet and their poems. You may, however, want to use one of the external sites if you are just looking for a specific poem to read for general interest.
If the poet you are researching is American, you will want to get a general idea about what was happening during the time period within which they lived, and this database can help you find that information.