TITLE: Academy of American Poets

ACCESS: http://www.poets.org/index.cfm

The Academy of American Poets has a website that has a variety of features that could interest an academic library, depending on what other literary resources are made available to your patrons. This is a good, general starting point for someone that is just starting to explore poetry, but it is a not a resource with in-depth or detailed research information. This is not a commercial product, nor is it produced by an educational institution. The purpose of this site is to promote poetry, primarily for poets, educators, and publishers. Special features of this site include a section with audio clips located in the "Listening Booth." Here one can listen to individual poets read their poetry. One can also choose to listen and read along for selected poets. There is also a section with "Current Exhibits" which are basically thematic essays with links to related web pages on individual poets. There are currently about ten exhibits with two more on the way. If one is seeking a source for detailed biographical information on poets, this may or may not be the site for you, depending on how many "clicks" you want to execute to locate information.

The Academy has a section entitled "Find a Poet" which is an alphabetical list of over 320 poets who have been selected for the site. This section is definitely a work in progress, not all poets have a web page and new pages are added weekly. There is no information concerning criteria for selecting poets for inclusion, but in reviewing the list they are not limiting their focus to just American poets. The list is international in scope, and includes poets from a variety of time periods. Shakespeare, Robert Browning, Robert Frost, Rita Dove, and Seamus Heaney, to name a few.

The "Find a Poet" section includes pages on individual poets with biographical information as well as links to more information. The biography is very brief and are varied in content and length. As a minor point, some biographies include birthdates with month and day, and others do not. Using Robert Frost as an example, the biography includes only the year he was born, but selecting the link to the biographical connection to Literature Online (Addison Wesley), one finds his birthdate was March 26th. As the basic biographical information is not difficult to locate, it would be nice if each biography was consistent in format and content for each poet. Each poet's page does include a photo along with the brief biography. Of particular interest is the inclusion of fulltext for selected poems. One can obtain a variety of poems for each poet from this single site. Included in each page is a selected bibliography of writings, and links to web sites with more information. If one is seeking detailed information on a particular poet, one has to explore these various links. The brief biographical information provided on the poet's page is insufficient by itself. The biographical pages on individual poets appear to have been written by different individuals, but as no credits are given for the individual contributions, this may be a perception rather than a reality. Because each entry is varied in content, it is the assumption of the reviewer that the entries are compiled by different individuals. Another issue with lack of credits is that there also isn't any information to provide one with evidence of authority and accuracy for the information provided.

This site is potentially a good starting point for someone who is just starting to explore poetry and is interested in comparing styles and gathering some general information. The exhibits section allows one to identify names connected with particular aspects of poetry, such as the exhibit "Poets of the Harlem Renaissance." The information included in the exhibit is cursory at best, but it makes connections with the poets and the time period. The "Literary Links" section includes links to a variety of websites with fulltext of poetry. This is a benefit to this site as a starting point if one wants fulltext, but wants to pinpoint resources without having to use a search engine which can provide an overwhelming list.

Since the purpose of this site is to promote poetry, there are additional features that are aimed at promoting poetry to educators as well as "would-be" poets. Included is a section on National Poetry month, which is in April each year, and they provide information on resources for educators, as well as those individuals who are interested in writing poetry. As a noncommercial site, it is evident that this a more a "labor of love" than a product that they are trying to sell and promote. There are minor issues related to adding a statement selection criteria as well as providing information on contributors, however, their main purpose is not to provide a scholarly resource for academic purposes. As a gentle suggestion to the producers, the site would benefit from a thorough review of the site navigation. There are links from the "Listening Booth" to biographies, but not all biographies link back to available audio clips in the "Listening Booth." Occasionally one ends up in a section with no way to get back to the "Find a Poet" section without going to the main home page. The site is not a large site, and these are minor criticisms, but if addressed would improve the site overall, and make it more user friendly for those individuals who wish to explore poetry.

Terri Fishel
Macalester College
June 2000

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