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Reference Book of the Week: Encyclopedia of American Poetry: The Twentieth Century

Since this is National Poetry Month, I figured that this month I will try to feature some reference books related to poetry. A reminder to our students to submit their poems for our Poetry Contest. Find the details on our website here. Now back to the Reference Book of the Week. This is a reference book for those seeking information on American poets and their poetry in the 20th century. According to the editor, the book aims to explicate a broad selection of poetry. It also covers various authors and topics. It contains 400 entries, which are organized alphabetically. The book features a title index and a general index. The book provides the following types of entries:
  • "Entries on individual poets feature a critical treatment of the poet's achievements" (ix). In these entries, you get a brief biography of the poet, a list of his/her published works, and a list of criticism under the heading of "further reading." If you want an overview on a poet, this is a good place to get it. You can use the list of works to check if we have a poet's books in the library by using the library catalog. You can also check to see if we have the items suggested for further reading in the library.
  • "Entries on landmark poems offer close readings of the work thus distinguished and situate it within a historical and biographical context" (ix). For example, the entry for Robert Frost's poem, "The Road Not Taken," will provide a small entry that gives some background on how the poem was written and where it fits in the context of Frost's work. Entries for poems also feature a list for further reading. If you are writing a paper on a poem, this book can provide a good place to start.
  • "Entries on major topics offer in-depth analysis of formal developmens in 20th-century American poetry" (ix). Some sample topics include: free verse, Beat Poetry, Harlem Renaissance, Canadian Poetry, and Literary Theory and Poetry. If you need information on poetry concepts, movements, and related concepts, this is a good start.
Do keep in mind this volume covers only American poetry. There are other works for other parts of the world, and I will try to cover some of them in the blog this month. I like works like this because they give me a good place to start researching a topic. The fact you get a small list of suggestions for further reading means you get some items that you can try to locate in the library and expand your research. Entries in volumes like these are signed and are written by scholars in the field. Usually, what they list in the further readings list is what the scholars consider to be a good selection of items on the topic. The Encyclopedia of American Poetry: The Twentieth Century is available in the library's reference collection. Its call number is PS 323.5 .E53 2001.
Published by root on 03 Apr

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