Ian Lancashire
© 1996-2002

Indexes: [ by Poet | by Title | by First Line | by Timeline | by Days of the Year | by Keyword | Glossary of Poetic Terms | Criticism on Poetry | Canadian Poetry | Introduction ]
Related Materials: [ Encoding Guidelines | Preface | UT English Library]

RPO version 2.08 holds the contents of the University of Toronto Press RP editions of 1912, 1916, 1935-46, and 1962-67, and many other poets. See the "What's New" file for additions made since 1994.


How does Representative Poetry On-line differ from other Web sites for poetry?
This anthology gives you individual poems in English that critics, teachers, students, and general readers have thought unusually good. Normally, you will not find complete books by a poet here. The editors of this collection, which have included Marshall McLuhan and Northrop Frye, are selective. They also give bibliographic sources for all poems; and all new texts are given unnormalized, transcribed as in their originals. Version 3.0 has over 2,900 poems by more than 400 poets and so is larger than most printed anthologies.

Why do you use the title Representative Poetry On-line?
The title comes from a teaching anthology first published by Professor W. J. Alexander at University College in the University of Toronto in 1912 and issued thereafter for teaching purposes at the University of Toronto Press until 1967.

How does a poem get included in Representative Poetry On-line?
Originally this anthology included British and Canadian poems that their editors judged to be unusually good. These poems represented many kinds of fine writing in English verse. There was no intention of representing poets by nationality, race, gender, religion, or period. Representative Poetry On-line still lacks English-language poetry outside Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Until Version 2.0, women poets were almost absent. As time goes by, the editor will extend the anthology so as to make it representative of the work of many different kinds of poets.

Why doesn't Representative Poetry On-line have poems by W. B. Yeats and other great modern poets?
They are still in the author's copyright. All works by US authors are copyrighted for 75 years after the date of first publication. However, Public Law 105-298, enacted October 27, 1998, " further extended the renewal term of copyrights still subsisting on that date by an additional 20 years, providing for a renewal term of 67 years and a total term of protection of 95 years" (my emphasis). All works by British authors are copyrighted for 50 years (plus the war years) after the death of the author but recent changes in the copyright law of Great Britain (Jan. 1996) restore copyright to the estate of an author whose death occurred roughly between 1926 and 1946 and whose works fell out of copyright under the previous legislation (50 years after the death of the author). British and Eire copyright holds for 70 years after the author's death. W. B. Yeats died in 1939 and thus his works are protected by copyright until 2009. All works by Canadian authors are held to be in copyright for 50 years after the date of the author's death. Works that do not fall under copyright may be regarded as being in the public domain.

How do I find a poem when I only know the title or a first or last line?
If you do not find the poem listed in the title or first-line indexes of Representative Poetry On-line, consult The Columbia Granger's Index to Poetry, 10th edition, edited by Edith P. Hazen (New York: Columbia University Press, 1994). Most public and educational libraries should have this excellent reference book. It indexes 79,000 poems by 11,000 authors in 400 anthologies and offers title, first-line, last-line, author and subject indexes. This book is also available on CD-ROM. Try searching the 1901 edition of John Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, found in the Bartleby Project at Columbia University.If you belong to an institution that subscribes to ProQuest's Literature Online, search its huge database.

Can Representative Poetry On-line be used for teaching poetry, and how?
Course descriptions for literature courses often include lists of texts and a schedule of times when they will be discussed in class. If published as a Web page, a course description can have links to texts of poems. Although paper anthologies are often more convenient for students to read and annotate than electronic ones, a resource like Representative Poetry On-line can supplement textbooks by providing free, easily-available copies of texts not included in it. Because this and other on-line anthologies can be summoned up at a student's personal computer, they can be used at the same time that the student is writing an essay. Other uses will occur to teachers and students.

Can I publish poems from Representative Poetry On-line in a school, college, or university Web site serving literature courses?
Yes, as long as your use is not commercial. You may extract the poem texts themselves -- without the editorial frame, the notes, etc. -- and use these without any copyright restriction. RPO asserts no copyright claim for the poetry itself.

Where are good places to find other poetry on the Web?
Poetry is everywhere on the Web. See the RPO Bibliography for links to helpful sites.

Is there a master database of all major poetry so that I can find a poem for which I only know one phrase?
ProQuest's commercial product, LION ("Literature Online"), is highly recommended.

How do I find out how much one of my old books of poetry is worth?
Search for your work at the American Book Exchange site ABEBooks. You will find out here how much it costs to buy your book now. The mega-site for this interest appears to be Books and Book Collecting.

Where can I find on-line criticism about English poetry?
RPO 3.0 offers both criticism by major poets in the past and critical commentaries by Ian Lancashire on selected poems. For recent literary studies, see peer-reviewed scholarly journals and other resources now on-line.

How do I find poems in Representative Poetry On-line that are about a theme?
The best way is to use the keyword or concordance search.

Where do I publish my own poems?
Consult 1999 Poet's Market: 1,800 Places to Publish your Poetry, edited by Chantelle Bentley (Cincinnati, Ohio: Writer's Digest Book, 1998).

As important, consider attending poetry readings in your town or city. Get to know others who, like you, write poems and go out of your way to listen to them reading. Then offer to read your own work. You may well reach more hearts and minds in person than you would in the pages of a journal or book.

Be cautious about commercial invitations to contribute poems to literary contests. You will be paying out money to see your poems in print, and the volumes in which you publish may not be as respected as you would like. See "Literary Contest Caution" by Charlie Hughes of Wind Publications.

Can I use poems and prose from Representative Poetry On-line as the basis for my own edition of poetry?
Commercial use of these materials is not allowed. If you wish to make your own anthology available for educational purposes, or to serve the love of poetry, you will invest a lot of yourself in the selection of the texts and in the way they are presented. For this reason you will want all aspects of the collection to reflect your editorial mind. The best way to accomplish this is to go back to the original editions yourself and re-edit the poems. Treating the electronic texts of Representative Poetry On-line as anything more than preliminary copy will defeat this end.

What is copyright in Representative Poetry On-line?
By placing this collection on-line, everyone involved has agreed to let everyone make copies. As far as we know, the poems and prose works here -- with the exception of poems by Marge Piercy and Mark Doty -- are out of the author's intellectual copyright: they are in the public domain. Only the editorial and critical work and the compilation of the indexes and other supplementary files have a tradition of legal copyright. If you re-use editorial work in this collection, you should credit the genuine efforts of all who have contributed to it.

Why do poems in Representative Poetry On-line include line numbers?
They ensure that missing lines can be identified; they allow us to attach end-of-file notes to points in the poems; and they enable everyone to refer to particular passages, especially in long poems.

How did you get permission to place Representative Poetry On-line on-line?
The editor wrote a letter to the University of Toronto Press and asked permission of its rights officer. Because the editor was a member of the Department of English at the University of Toronto, and the last complete edition of Representative Poetry in the 1960s was "Prepared by members of the Department of English at the University of Toronto," permission was granted.

Will you reply to my questions if I send you a note by e-mail?
I try to answer all inquiries but cannot undertake research for you. We also cannot assist students whom teachers have assigned to interpret poems.

Why are you doing this all without charging?
Three reasons. First, it costs nothing to let readers have copies of these poems -- no paper, no printing charge, no distribution and sales. Second, most of this poetry is in the public domain; being out of copyright, no further royalties need go to the author or the author's estate. Last, the University of Toronto Press and the Department of English have not sold copies of Representative Poetry for over 30 years, and the editor of Representative Poetry On-line volunteers his time.

Comments and corrections are welcome.