Poetry Resources on the Web

Frances N. Phillips

A Web search for “Poetry,” “Poet,” or “Poem” points to hundreds of sites. I've gathered some sites providing poetry services, projects to engage the public, and opportunities to learn about and locate individual writers. This column does not touch upon the growing numbers of online literary journals or fully represent literary centers.

Building Audiences

Growing out of a cluster of grants awarded several years ago by the Wallace-Reader's Digest Funds to eight leading literary centers, the Audiences for Literature Network site — fostered exchanges of ideas among peers about audience development. Parts of the site are out-of-date or under construction, but the “lessons learned” case studies are recommended.

Based on former U.S. Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky's efforts to honor and illuminate the importance of poetry to people from all walks of life, the “Favorite Poem” Web site — features fifty short videos of contributors “saying their favorite poems aloud,” a database of 18,000 favorite poems with commentary by contributors, and links to successful teaching ideas for poetry.

For more comprehensive services for teachers of poetry and poets working in schools, Teachers and Writers Collaborative — offers catalogues of published materials and an online forum, “writenet,” for exchanging teaching ideas.

Small Press Publishing and Books

The Council of Literary Magazines and Presses (CLMP) serves nonprofit publishers of literary journals and books. Its Web site offers books and monographs about all aspects of publishing, member services (such as a peer advisors program and an ad brokerage), as well as listservs, chat rooms, and discussions.

The only remaining nonprofit book distributor in the U.S., Small Press Distribution, offers poetry, fiction and cultural writing from more than 500 independent presses. Its best-selling poetry list includes works by Lucile Clifton, Theresa Cha and Kak Kyung, Harryette Mullen, Sherman Alexie, Jack Kerouac, and others. Not only is SPD's site a great place to shop (and support a nonprofit while doing so), it has organized helpful reading lists of Asian American, Latino, African American, Native American, and Gay and Lesbian writers.

News that Stays News

Poetry activists Bob Holman and Margery Snyder's Web column — About: Poetry — is lively, opinionated, and aesthetically wide-ranging. Columns cover poetry news; delve into literary forms and eras; analyze poetry publishers, magazines, and videos; compile online word games; and review online contests. The flashing advertisements are distracting, but this site is jam-packed with information, opinions, humor, and attitude. Four words: take the burrito test.

Trying Your Hand

Slanted toward amateur poets,, is filled with Web-style bells and whistles. You can look up the “100 greatest poems,” seek help with techniques, send poetry greeting cards, and win cash prizes by posting your poetry on the site. I recommend the “Need Help Rhyming?” feature.

Poem of the Day

True to its name, “Poetry Daily” presents a daily poem, selected from review copies of published books and journals submitted by publishers and editors. One finds true editorial vision here. Selections are aesthetically wide-ranging and include works in English translation. Also included is biographical information about the featured poet, and a brief review of the publication in which it appeared.

Home of the U.S. Poet Laureate, the Center for the Book at the Library of Congress includes on its website Laureate Billy Collins's “Poetry 180,” a project intending to infuse poetry into the 180 annual school days of United States high schools. Collins encourages schools to “invite all members of the school community to be included as readers,” perhaps, he suggests, closing daily public address system announcements with a poem. In addition to Collins's 180 recommended poems, the site includes guidance for reading aloud and a terrific broadcast of a reading by Collins.

Finding Writers and Readings

The Academy of American Poets site offers poetry news, services, research, and advice for readers and writers. Its strongest feature may be its compilation of poet biographies, many of which are linked to multiple sites. The range of featured writers is strong although it's not comprehensive. The Academy also is developing a national calendar of poetry events. Another site with related research capacities — The EServer Poetry Collection — features 100 examples of “canonical verse,” from Angelou to Shelley, linked to collections of essays in cultural studies and rhetoric.

The Web site of a national membership organization for writers, Poets and Writers (P&W), includes a directory of American poets and fiction writers, guides for teachers, and listings of grants and awards. P&W is experimenting with fee-based online classes and coaching for writers seeking publishing opportunities.

Looking for writers' programs close to home? The Loft in Minneapolis, one of the nation's largest nonprofit literary centers, includes on its Web site a growing list of writers' organizations.

Small Press Traffic has been “helping writers break the rules since 1974,” and has a strong reputation for presenting experimental work. The eloquent Kevin Killian introduces many of its readings and Killian's droll biographical notes fill much of the site's highly recommended “authors” section. This is a good place to learn about experimental writers without having to wade through academic treatises.

While much of the Naropa Institute's Web site resembles a typical college “view book,” its Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics was co-founded by Allen Ginsberg and features a multi-faceted online memorial to the Beat master, with poems and tributes written in his honor, photographs, a biography, and links to other Beat and Ginsberg sites.

Poetry Slams

The national poetry slam site Poetry Slam Incorporated has highlights of upcoming national slams. Never been to a slam before? The site's national map and directory can lead you to events close to home. It also will point you to “the most comprehensive listing of poetry slam links.”

While you're planning your slam itinerary, don't overlook the Taos Poetry Circus, home to the World Heavyweight Championship Poetry Bout, a week-long summer festival, held each June in New Mexico. Poet Sherman Alexie is the current three-time heavyweight champion. You can read overviews of past year's circus and full accounts of recent years' championship bouts. [1/11/07 update: the Taos Poetry Circus has “folded its tent.”]

Cowboy Poets

Hankering for the annual cowboy poetry gathering in Elko, Nevada? The Western Folklife Center's attractive site features a history of cowboy poetry, a media archive of past events, and a way for visitors to purchase posters, books, calendars, and recordings. If would like to catch up with the cowboy poetry scene, check out the monthly “Events and Festivals” listings at Cowboy Poetry.