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About American Poetry


American Poetry contains over 40,000 poems by more than 200 poets, covering the Colonial period to the early twentieth century, and drawn from over 1,200 printed sources.

The collection begins with early Colonial poems such as John Wilson's 'A Song of Thanksgiving for the Lasting Remembrance of God's Wonderful Works' (1603), William Morrell's 'New England' (1625) and the complete works of Anne Bradstreet and Edward Taylor, and continues through to early twentieth-century writers such as Adelaide Crapsey and Vachel Lindsay. For the first time, major canonical poets, such as Emily Dickinson, Edgar Allan Poe, Phillis Wheatley, Walt Whitman and Herman Melville, and important literary groups, such as the Transcendentalists and the Knickerbocker school, can be read alongside substantial bodies of work by less familiar names such as Elizabeth Akers Allen, Richard Emmons, Lemuel Hopkins and Emma Lazarus.

Editorial Policy

The bibliographic basis of American Poetry is the Bibliography of American Literature (Yale University Press, 1955–1991). This has been extensively supplemented with additional poets recommended by the Editorial Board to provide a more thorough representation. The database aims to include the complete works of all major poets and a substantial number of secondary figures. It principally covers the period to 1900, although a few poets active after 1900 are also included.

The Editions

In general texts contemporary with their authors were preferred, and, when available, collected editions. For those poets whose established canon could not be covered by contemporary printings, reliable later editions have been included.

Only a single version of each poem usually appears. Exceptions to this rule have been made for significant revisions to major works; for example, five editions of Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass have been included (from 1855, 1856, 1860, 1872 and 1891). In addition to the works of over 200 individual poets, four major anthologies published before 1840 appear in their entirety:

  • American Poems, Selected and Original (1793)
  • Specimens of American Poetry, ed. S. Kettel (1829)
  • American Commonplace Book of Poetry, ed. G.B. Cheever (1831)
  • Selections from the American Poets, ed. W.C. Bryant (1840)

Poems found in some poets' collections are duplicated in the anthologies. Poems published only in journals, gazettes, or periodicals have generally been excluded, as have translations. The Editorial Board nevertheless recommended exceptions to these criteria when works which did not meet them were considered too important to be excluded.

The Texts

The entire text of each poem has been included. Any accompanying text written by the poet and forming an integral part of the poem, such as dedications, notes, arguments and epigraphs, is also generally included.

Volume-specific front and back matter, such as advertisements, prefaces, introductions, editorial apparatus, dedicatory epistles, biographies, glossaries and indexes has usually been excluded.

Editorial Board

Matthew J. Bruccoli, Jefferies Professor of English, University of South Carolina (Chairman)
Joel Myerson, Carolina Research Professor of American Literature, University of South Carolina
Richard Layman, Vice President, Bruccoli Clark Layman
Harrison Meserole, Professor Emeritus, Texas A&M University
William Cagle, Director, Lilly Library, Indiana University
Laurence Buell, Professor of English, Harvard University