Can’t get that line out of your head, but can’t remember the whole poem? Seeking words for your grandfather’s memorial service or your sister’s wedding? You can find favorite poems easily on the Net if you know how to look for them.
Time Required: 20 minutes
- First, gather in your mind everything specific you know about the poem you’re seeking: poet’s name, exact title (or words you are sure are in the title), phrases or entire lines from the poem, unique or unusual words contained in the poem.
- If you are sure of the poet's name, consult our alphabetized lists of poet links (listed on the left) to find the best sources of poems written by that poet.
- If the site containing the poet’s works has a search function, use it to find the title, title words, phrase or line you remember.
- Otherwise, go to the site’s page which is most likely to contain what you remember about the poem (table of contents if you remember the title or title words, poem texts themselves if you remember phrases or lines from the body of the poem).
- On the likely page, use “Control-F” to activate your browser’s search function and type in the exact word or phrase you remember to see if it is contained on that page. Repeat this on other likely pages.
- If you don’t know the poet's name, but are pretty sure the poem is a “classic,” go to the major poetry text archives with internal search capabilities. (Links are in “Classic Poetry Text Archives” below.)
- Follow each archive’s search instructions to find if your poem is in the archive.
- If you have no idea who the poet is, but are sure of the title or a specific phrase or even just a few unique words from the poem, go to the search engines.
- Choose a search engine that will allow you to search for Web pages containing an entire phrase in order: try AlltheWeb, Google or Alta Vista. (About’s Websearch site can help you choose one.)
- In the search box, type the specifics you remember, enclosing whole phrases in quotation marks — for instance, “fog comes” “cat feet” will locate Carl Sandburg’s poem containing the line, “The fog comes / on little cat feet.”
- Modify your search depending on the results: add specific words or phrases if your search generated too many pages; eliminate the words or phrases of which you are not 100% sure if your search resulted in too few pages.
- Don’t forget to ask the well-read poets and poetry fans in the About Poetry Forum!
- Post a description of the poem you’re seeking in the Forum’s “Queries & Answers” folder and even if you can’t remember specific lines, we may be able to help you find it.
- If you find the poem elsewhere & it’s in the public domain, bring it back and post it in the Forum’s “Library of Favorite Poems Quoted” to share it with the rest of us.
- If your search engine results include lots of topical pages about your keywords (for instance, cats or weather in the case of the Sandburg poem above) — but no poems, try adding “poem” or “poetry” to your search words.
- If you’ve searched for a whole line in quotes and get nothing, you may have misremembered the line — for instance, “fog comes in on little cat’s feet” locates two pages in which Sandburg’s poem is misquoted, but not the poem itself.
- If you’re not totally sure, try different forms of the words you remember — for instance, “cat feet” “cat’s feet” “cats’ feet” in successive searches.