AT FIRST sight, the Web and poetry have little in common. While the Web is characterised by vast, convoluted, over-abundance, poetry is about precise, subtle, often understated shades of meaning. Yet poetry flourishes in the electronic ether - the only difficulty is sorting out the good from the bad and the appallingly ugly. Here are a few sites to start:
Internet Poetry Archive
Exploring just seven poets in considerable detail, for each writer there are several poems plus a bibliography, a biography and plenty of useful links to other relevant material on the web. Seamus Heaney is the most illustrious name among those posted, and all are clearly explained in the accompanying material. Americans Robert Pinsky, Philip Levine, Richard Wilbur and Margaret Walker, and Polish-Lithuanian Czeslaw Milosz are also here.
The Academy of American Poets
Featuring around 200 poets, the Academy is moving slowly towards its goal of creating an online encyclopaedia of poets - there are more than 800 poets waiting to be added. Those already online are an eclectic and international bunch including Homer, Rilke and Browning alongside more contemporary writers. Each has a biography, bibliography and links to work by or about them. There are also audio recordings, discussion forums and links to international calendars of poetry events. This is a businesslike, efficient site that is definitely worth watching.
Bartleby specialises in free literature; ie, works that can be provided gratis on the Web, and among its thousands of volumes it offers some top- quality poetry. The poetry is searchable by author, title or first line and there's pretty much every classic poet imaginable including Dickinson, Housman, Eliot, Whitman, Frost, Sassoon, Sandburg and Hardy. It's worth emphasising that there are entire collections here, rather than just a few poems, with more being added all the time.
Poetry.com: International Library of Poetry
For sheer volume, this site is hard to beat in the poetry stakes as it features the work of over 2.4 million poets. Admittedly, the quality isn't uniformly glorious (they run a raft of poetry competitions and entry qualifies for a posting). However they also make space for the famous with "100 Greatest Poems" and "100 Greatest Love Poems". The links to other sites are …