How to Perform an Online Search to Find the Lines From Poems

woman using computer athome
Tooga/Taxi/Getty Images

Whether a lover of poetry can't get a specific line out of their head or simply can’t remember the whole poem they're thinking of, finding the text of a poem can be easy and quick.

It's important to be able to find the right line or words, especially when one is seeking them for sentimental or milestone events, like their grandfather’s memorial service, or their sister’s wedding. Poetry seekers can find their favorite poems online when they know how to look for them.

10 Steps to Find the Words From Poems Online

In less than 20 minutes, poetry seekers can locate the text of the poem they are thinking of.

  1. Gather information. First, it is important for seekers to gather everything specific they know about the poem by either taking a mental note or writing it on paper. This information may include bits and pieces, like the poet’s name, exact title (or words they are sure are in the title), phrases or entire lines from the poem, and unique or unusual words contained in the poem.
  2. Use a list. If poetry seekers are sure of the poet's name, they should consult with alphabetized lists of poets before starting the search. This will allow soon-to-be poetry finders to easily locate several poems written by individual poets.
  3. Consider a website's search bar. If the site containing the poet’s works has a search function, poetry seekers can try using it to find the title, title words, phrase or line they remember by inputting this information.
  1. Visit the website. When the search bar fails, poetry seekers may go to the site’s page, which is most likely to contain what they remember about the poem. For example, if there is only memory of phrases or lines from the body of the poem, visiting the table of contents will be of great assistance.
  2. Activate the search function. On the likely page, it is recommended to use “Control-F” to activate the browser’s search function. Typing in the exact word or phrase remembered will allow seekers to see if the poem is contained on that page. Repeat this step on other likely pages for best results.
  1. Go to a text archive. When the name of a poet is forgotten, but the poem is remembered as a classic, a text archive can help. Specifically, seekers can go to major poetry text archives, which have internal search capabilities. Searches like “Classic Poetry Text Archives” will bring this up quickly. It is important for seekers to follow search instructions in this step, as each archive site will have a set up specific steps to take when using the search bar.
  2. Use a general search engine. Poetry seekers can choose a search engine that will allow them to search for web pages containing an entire phrase in order. Search engines like  AlltheWeb, Google, and Alta Vista can be of assistance. This is a particularly good option when poetry seekers have no idea who the poet is but are sure of the title or a specific phrase. Even just a few unique words from the poem can help.

  3. Put phrases in quotation marks. In the search box, seekers can type the specifics they remember by 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.”
  4. Modify the search. Depending on the results, varying the search could be helpful. This may include adding specific words or phrases when the search generates too many pages and eliminating the words or phrases that do not result in enough pages.
  1. Reach out to fans. Ask well-read poets and poetry fans from various communities and forums about the poem. For example, seekers can post a description of the poem they are looking for. Even if specific lines are forgotten, the experts may be able to help find it.

Tips for Online Poetry Searches

  • If search engine results include topical pages about keywords, for instance, cats or weather in the case of the Sandburg poem above but no poems, seekers can try adding words like “poem” or “poetry” to search words.
  • When seekers have searched for the whole line in quotes and get nothing back, they 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.
  • Seekers can try different forms of the words they remember when they are uncertain. For instance, “cat feet” “cat’s feet” “cats’ feet” can be tried in successive searches.