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Peter Armenti, Reference Specialist, Researcher and Reference Services Division
Created: October 1, 2021
Last Updated: August 20, 2022
The Library of Congress receives hundreds of requests each year from people seeking to find their poems. In some instances, people who registered their poetry with the U.S. Copyright Office want to know how to obtain a copy of it. Most often, however, people will ask the Library for assistance finding a poem that they, or one of their family members, submitted to a poetry contest. They typically note that the poem was published in a poetry anthology, and in addition to wanting the full text of the poem, request information about the anthology in which it appears.
Publishers of such amateur poetry anthologies typically run regular poetry contests publicized in newspapers, magazines, and on the Web. Almost every poem submitted to these contests is declared a "semifinalist" or "winner" and accepted for publication in a forthcoming anthology of winning poems. People are usually encouraged by the publisher to purchase a copy of the anthology in which their poem is slated to appear, and sometimes are notified that purchase of a copy is a requirement for their poem to be printed in the anthology. Publishers such as these which require people pay to have their work published are known as vanity presses. The largest publisher of vanity press poetry anthologies since 1980, and the one about which the Library of Congress receives the most inquiries, is the International Library of Poetry (ILP) (see the "Amateur Poetry Publishers" section of this guide).
Many times, vanity presses such as the ILP attempt to link their anthologies to the Library of Congress, stating in letters or emails to contestants that their anthologies are stored or placed in the Library of Congress. Many people mistakenly assume this means that the Library of Congress has published or endorsed their poetry, which is not the case. Instead, this usually means that the anthologies are registered or deposited with the U.S. Copyright Office at the Library of Congress, which does not guarantee that the anthology will be held by the Library. In fact, most amateur poetry anthologies are not retained for the Library's permanent collections.
This guide describes many of the publishers that have run poetry contests whose winning poems were published in amateur poetry anthologies, and offers information on how to locate these anthologies at the Library of Congress, other libraries, and bookstores. Many publisher entries include links to the WorldCat database, a global library catalog External that can be used to identify libraries that hold copies of anthologies. Alternative names for publishers, their years of activity, sampled advertisements they ran in newspapers, and details about their publishing practices are provided when possible.
Please note that the Library of Congress does not attempt to assess the legitimacy of the publishers listed on this guide, and their inclusion does not represent an endorsement of their activities or publications. The Academy of American Poets website provides information on how to determine whether a poetry contest is legitimate External and how to identify questionable contests and publishers. Standard practices of vanity anthology publishers are discussed on the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America website External.