Literary Handbooks, Dictionaries, and Encyclopedias


Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics. Ed. Roland Greene. 4th ed. Princeton: Princeton UP, 2012. 1,639 pp. PN1021.N39 808.1′03.

A guide to the history, theory, technique, and criticism of poetry, ancient to modern, Eastern and Western. The approximately 1,150 signed entries, written by an impressive array of scholars, cover the history of poetry (by language, school, movement, and country), technique, genres, forms, prosody, poetic theory and criticism (including critical terminology), related forms, and the relationship of poetry to other fields (e.g., music, religion, philosophy). There are no entries on individual poets or works. A typical entry includes a definition, discussion of historical development, examples, and a brief bibliography. Three indexes: persons; subjects; titles. Almost completely rewritten and substantially enlarged, Princeton Encyclopedia supersedes its predecessors (Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics, enl. ed., ed. Alex Preminger [1974; 992 pp.] and New Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics, ed. Preminger and T. V. F. Brogan [1993; 1,383 pp.], which is online through LiOn [I527] and Credo Reference [http://www.credoreference.com]). The most thorough, erudite, and authoritative of the numerous poetry encyclopedias, New Princeton Encyclopedia is an essential companion for serious readers and scholars and—as one of the very finest examples of its kind—a model for similar, much needed encyclopedias of drama and fiction.

Although neither as comprehensive nor as thorough as the Princeton Encyclopedia, the following are also useful:

  • Deutsch, Babette. Poetry Handbook: A Dictionary of Terms. 4th ed. New York: Funk, 1974. 203 pp.

  • Myers, Jack, and Michael Simms. Longman Dictionary and Handbook of Poetry. New York: Longman, 1985. 366 pp. Longman English and Humanities Ser. Reprinted as The Longman Dictionary of Poetic Terms (1989), with no acknowledgment of its ancestry or correction of the numerous factual and typographical errors (see the review by Basil Cottle, Review of English Studies ns 40.159 [1989]: 398–99). Even its third incarnation—Myers and Don C. Wukasch, Dictionary of Poetic Terms (Denton: U of North Texas P, 2003, 434 pp.)—does not correct many of the errors Cottle identified, fails to provide an adequately updated bibliography, and (even with a host of entries for what can hardly be called poetic terms [e.g., colophon, id, verso]) is hardly “the most comprehensive list of poetic terms that has yet been compiled.”

  • Turco, Lewis. The Book of Forms: A Handbook of Poetics Including Odd and Invented Forms. Rev. and expanded ed. Hanover: UP of New England, 2012. 440 pp.

  • Williams, Miller. Patterns of Poetry: An Encyclopedia of Forms. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State UP, 1986. 203 pp. Stanza patterns and poetic forms—including a few not in Princeton Encyclopedia—are more fully illustrated in this and the preceding work.

See also

Malof, Manual of English Meters (M1585).

Shapiro, Prosody Handbook (M1585a).

Guides to Primary Works


Columbia Granger’s Index to Poetry in Anthologies (Granger’s Index). Ed. Tessa Kale. 13th ed. New York: Columbia UP, 2007. 2,376 pp. Former titles: Granger’s Index to Poetry (1904–86); Columbia Granger’s Index to Poetry (1990–94). PN1022.H39 016.80881.

Columbia Granger’s World of Poetry. (Also called Columbia Granger’s Poetry Database.) Columbia University Press. Columbia UP, n.d. 8 May 2013. <http://www.columbiagrangers.org>. Also available online through EBSCO (I512).

Title/first-line/last-line, author, and subject indexes to some 70,000 poems (including translations) in the most accessible anthologies published through 2006. Beginning with the 13th ed., poems in Spanish, Vietnamese, and French are included; earlier editions are limited to English-language works. Subject indexing, although expanded in recent editions, relies heavily on title keywords, and thus form and genre headers are virtually useless (e.g., under “sonnets” Shakespeare does not appear). The indexes are cumbersome to use because the author and subject listings are keyed to the title/first-line/last-line entries, which are in turn keyed to the list of anthologies. Users must remember to check for variant titles and first lines. Since the current edition is not cumulative and includes few pre-1990 publications, earlier editions remain essential sources. A Compilation of Works Listed in Granger’s Index to Poetry, 1904–1978 (Great Neck: Granger, 1980; 217 pp.) indexes anthologies by Granger symbol, title, and editor or compiler. Although highly selective and emphasizing established writers, Granger’s Index is valuable for identifying poems on a topic or anthologized reprints. A companion volume—The Columbia Granger’s Index to Poetry in Collected and Selected Works, 2nd ed., ed. Keith Newton (2004; 1,847 pp.)—indexes more than 65,000 poems in collections by 266 authors. While the likelihood that a volume will be found on library shelves is Newton’s primary selection criterion, the editorial board also considered a poet’s reputation and a collection’s editorial standards.

Granger’s can be searched most efficiently through Columbia Granger’s World of Poetry database, which incorporates the 8th through the 13th editions of Granger’s Index, the first two editions of Columbia Granger’s Index to Poetry in Collected and Selected Works, and The Columbia Granger’s Index to African-American Poetry (Q3840), in addition to the full texts of nearly 250,000 poems, potted explications accompanied by a selective bibliography, and brief biographies. Columbia Granger’s search interface allows for a Quick Search (by author or title) or an Advanced Search (combinations of title, first line, last line, full text, author, gender, source title, and subject can be limited to full text, schools and movements, language, form [e.g., ballad, epigram], historical period, and cultural identity). Keyword searches of texts of poems frequently return several false hits since the interface does not allow exact matching. Results appear in no apparent order and cannot be re-sorted. Although in need of a more flexible search interface, Columbia Granger’s World of Poetry allows users to locate quickly poems about a particular subject or to identify half-remembered lines from a poem. Unfortunately, the online version offered by EBSCO offers no explanation of its relation to the printed editions; see entry I512 for a discussion of the search interface.

Fuller coverage of recent anthologies was offered for a time by Poetry Index Annual: A Title, Author, First Line, Keyword, and Subject Index to Poetry in Anthologies (Great Neck: Poetry Index, 1982–94). Although more thorough than Granger’s Index in covering small-press publications, it hardly achieved the exhaustiveness it sometimes claimed (“all poetry anthologies as they are published”).

See also

Humanities Index (G385).

Humanities International Complete (G360).

Index to Children’s Poetry (U5540).

Readers’ Guide (G400).

Guides to Scholarship and Criticism


Coleman, Arthur. Epic and Romance Criticism. 2 vols. Searingtown: Watermill, 1973–74. Z7156.E6 C64 016.8091.

  • Vol. 1: A Checklist of Interpretations, 1940–1972, of English and American Epics and Metrical Romances. 1973. 387 pp.

  • Vol. 2: A Checklist of Interpretations, 1940–1973, of Classical and Continental Epics and Metrical Romances. 1974. 368 pp.

A selective bibliography of English-language articles and parts of books organized by title of poem. Inconsistencies abound in the inclusion of several works that can hardly be classified as epic or romance, in the alphabetization of titles, and in the transcription of bibliographical information. Despite the inconsistencies, errors, and omissions, the focus on long poems makes Coleman—if used with considerable caution—a useful complement to Kuntz and Martinez, Poetry Explication (L1255); Cline and Baker, Index to Criticisms of British and American Poetry (L1255a); and Alexander, American and British Poetry (L1255a). Review: John Keith Wikeley, Literary Research Newsletter 1.3 (1976): 117–21.


Donow, Herbert S., comp. The Sonnet in England and America: A Bibliography of Criticism. Westport: Greenwood, 1982. 477 pp. Z2014.S6 D66 [PR509.S7] 821′.042′09.

A bibliography of studies, anthologies, and editions of British and American sonneteers from the Renaissance through the nineteenth century. Coverage of English, French, and German scholarship is reasonably thorough; that of other languages is admittedly less so. Entries are listed alphabetically in four classified sections: general studies and anthologies, Renaissance, Shakespeare, and eighteenth and nineteenth centuries; the period sections have subdivisions for general studies, anthologies, and poets. Approximately half of the 4,191 entries are annotated, but usually with a brief sentence that rarely offers an adequate indication of content. Of the three indexes (scholars; poets; subjects) only the first is adequate: neither the poet index—essential to discovering studies that discuss more than one writer—nor the subject index, which utilizes unconventional headings, is thorough. Despite its shortcomings, Donow is a valuable compilation of the widely scattered scholarship on the sonnet.


Kuntz, Joseph M., and Nancy C. Martinez. Poetry Explication: A Checklist of Interpretation since 1925 of British and American Poems Past and Present. [3rd ed.] Boston: Hall, 1980. 570 pp. Z2014.P7 K8 [PR502] 016.821′009.

A selective list of English-language articles and parts of books (published between 1925 and 1977) that explicate poems of generally less than 500 lines. Contemporary authors who are not widely recognized are not included. Entries are classified by poet, then by title, with parts of books keyed to a list at the back (which also identifies volumes of journals searched). The focus is explication; therefore, source, analogue, and most metrical studies are excluded, as are studies devoted to only part of a poem or books limited to one author. Long a standard source, particularly because of its indexing of parts of books, Poetry Explication is now largely superseded by a series of volumes published by Hall (New York), in the series Reference Publication in Literature:

  • Ruppert, James. Guide to American Poetry Explication, vol. 1: Colonial and Nineteenth-Century. 1989. 252 pp.

  • Leo, John R. Guide to American Poetry Explication, vol. 2: Modern and Contemporary. 1989. 546 pp.

  • Martinez, Nancy C., and Joseph G. R. Martinez. Guide to British Poetry Explication, vol. 1: Old English–Medieval. 1991. 310 pp.

  • ———. Guide to British Poetry Explication, vol. 2: Renaissance. 1992. 540 pp.

  • Martinez, Nancy C., Joseph G. R. Martinez, and Erland Anderson. Guide to British Poetry Explication, vol. 3: Restoration–Romantic. 1993. 576 pp.

  • ———. Guide to British Poetry Explication, vol. 4: Victorian–Contemporary. 1995. 720 pp.

These volumes incorporate entries from the three editions of Poetry Explication and follow its structure but extend coverage (through 1987–92, depending on the publication date of a volume) and expand the scope of the earlier work by admitting interviews and books devoted to a single poet and including poems of more than 500 lines and (in the second American volume) writers from throughout North America. Reviews: (Renaissance) William C. Johnson, Analytical and Enumerative Bibliography ns 6.1 (1992): 45–49; (Restoration–Romantic) Madeline A. Copp, Analytical and Enumerative Bibliography ns 8.1 (1994): 78–80.

Similar indexes that supplement the preceding checklists include Gloria Stark Cline and Jeffrey A. Baker, An Index to Criticisms of British and American Poetry (Metuchen: Scarecrow, 1973; 307 pp.), covering studies published between 1960 and 1970 in 30 journals and a few books; and Harriet Semmes Alexander, comp., American and British Poetry: A Guide to the Criticism, 1925–1978 (Athens: Swallow, 1984; 486 pp.) and 1979–1990 (Athens: Swallow–Ohio UP, 1996; 465 pp.), which include articles and parts of books that range beyond explication but are based on an unstated selection policy. In addition, an annual “Check List of Explication” appears in Explicator 3–41 (1944–45 through 1990–91). For studies of long poems, see Coleman, Epic and Romance Criticism (L1245).

See also

ABELL (G340): [English] Literature/General through the volume for 1967; [English] Literature/General/[Study of] Metre in the volumes for 1926–72; Literature, General/Literary History/Poetry, and Literature, General/Literary Criticism/Poetry in the volumes for 1968–72; Literary History and Criticism/Poetry, and Literary History and Criticism/Versification in the volume for 1973; and English Literature/General/Poetry in later volumes.

MLAIB (G335): General VII: Literature, General and Comparative in the volumes for 1953–55; General II: Literature, General and Comparative in the volume for 1956; General IV/Poetry in the volumes for 1957–80; and the Literary Forms division and Genres/Poetry section in pt. 4 of the later volumes. Researchers must also check the headings beginning “Poetry” in the subject index to post-1980 volumes and in the online thesaurus.

RILM: Répertoire international de littérature musicale (U6240).