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Amateur Poetry Anthologies: A Guide to Finding Your Published Poems

Finding Anthologies in Libraries and Bookstores

Part of the Amateur Poetry Anthologies Reference Collection on Deck 7 of the Library’s Main Reading Room. Photo by Library staff, 2021.

Amateur poetry anthologies are held by few libraries, and are rarely available for sale on the shelves of brick-and-mortar bookstores. Most amateur poetry publishers, especially vanity presses, sell their anthologies directly to winning contest entrants, and do not market their publications to libraries or bookstores. On occasion, a library will acquire an anthology at the request of a library member whose work is published in it, or a bookstore will agree to carry one or two hard copies at the request of a customer. The Library of Congress itself holds several hundred amateur poetry anthologies, most published between 1980-2000. Many of them are now available in a special Amateur Poetry Anthologies Reference Collection on Deck 7 of the Library's Main Reading Room.

To identify whether the Library of Congress, or another library, holds a copy of an amateur poetry anthology, you can search the WorldCat database External, a global library catalog that lists materials held by thousands of libraries around the world. WorldCat's Advanced Search External page allows users to search for materials using a variety of criteria, including author, title, ISBN, publication date, and keyword. If you locate a record for an amateur poetry anthology through WorldCat, you can enter your zip code or location in the record's "Enter your location" box to bring up a list of libraries that should hold the book. You, or a librarian at your local library, can then contact the holding library to see whether its copy of the anthology includes your poem.

If you would like to purchase a copy of an amateur poetry anthology, your best option is usually to check for copies available through bookstore databases such as AddALL Used Books and Out-of-Print Book Finder External, External, and External. If the anthology publisher is still active, you can contact the publisher directly to see if it is possible to purchase a copy through it.

Important note on the printing of poems: A common practice of some vanity press poetry publishers—the International Library of Poetry is one example—is to print different poems in each copy of anthology they publish. Consequently, even if you know the title and other publication details for the anthology in which your poem was published, your poem may not have been printed in every copy; in some instances, the only copy that will include your poem is the one you purchase directly from the publisher. Typically, the only ways to verify that a particular copy includes your poem are to check its author index and, if an index is not available, browse every page of the anthology. Since your poem may appear in only one or two copies out of dozens available through libraries and bookstores, conducting a thorough search for your poem may require you to contact all libraries and bookstores that hold the anthology in which your poem is supposed to appear. Unfortunately, even a thorough search does not guarantee that you will find your poem.