Internet Research for Lines of Poetry

A woman performs internet research at the dining room table

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. Sometimes, finding the right line or words is especially important, like when preparing for sentimental or milestone events, like a memorial service or wedding. Don't know where to start to find your favorite poems?

10 Steps to Find the Words From Poems Online

In less than 20 minutes, poetry seekers can likely locate the text of any 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. Find a reputable website. Chances are, just putting the line fragment that you remember into a search engine will come up with several possibilities, but if you want to be able to identify the right words, you should seek a reputable source. The Poetry Foundation is a good place to start; if you know the poet's name look for websites that are dedicated to them.
  3. Use the website's search bar. If the site you found that contains 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 simply typing in this information.
  4. 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 you only remember phrases or lines from the body of the poem, visiting the table of contents might be of great assistance.
  5. Activate the browser search function. If you find a page with poems on it, Use “Control-F” to activate the browser’s search function. Typing in the exact word or phrase will allow seekers to see if the poem is contained on that page. Repeat this step on other likely pages for best results.
  6. Go to a text archive. When you've forgotten the name of the poet, but remember that the poem is 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 specific steps to take when using the search bar.
  7. Google it. If all else fails, 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 Google, Yahoo, and Bing! 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: and if you find it on a site you don't trust, you may find more to inform your search, like the name of the poet.
  8. 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.”
  9. 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.
  10. 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.

mla apa chicago
Your Citation
Snyder, Bob Holman & Margery. "Internet Research for Lines of Poetry." ThoughtCo, Apr. 5, 2023, Snyder, Bob Holman & Margery. (2023, April 5). Internet Research for Lines of Poetry. Retrieved from Snyder, Bob Holman & Margery. "Internet Research for Lines of Poetry." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 6, 2023).