Poetry Contests, the National Library of Poetry, and Amateur Poetry Anthologies

One of my jobs as a digital reference specialist is to answer questions submitted through the Poetry and Literature Center’s Ask a Librarian form. The questions I receive tend to cluster around two or three major categories, such as how to find literary criticism on a novel and how to locate the full text of a poem without knowing its title and author. By far the most common question I receive, however, comes from people trying to find poems that they wrote, submitted to a poetry contest, and subsequently had published in a poetry anthology.

In almost every instance, the poems in question were published by an amateur, or vanity press, poetry publisher. These for-profit publishers, which have been extremely active since the 1980s, accept nearly every poem submitted to their contests for publication, and make money by encouraging winning poets to purchase copies of the anthologies in which their poems appear.

The Library of Congress has become a locus of questions about vanity press poetry publishers—receiving upwards of two-hundred inquiries per year—because many people mistakenly believe that the Library itself publishes and sells these anthologies. This misconception occurs for a number of reasons. First, the names of some amateur poetry publishers are quite similar to the Library of Congress. One of the largest amateur poetry publishers in the 1990s and 2000s was the National Library of Poetry, whose name is frequently confused with the Library of Congress, or, as many people refer to us, the “National Library of Congress.” Second, many of these publishers send emails and letters to winning poets that link their anthologies with the Library of Congress. Their correspondence sometimes notes that the anthologies will be submitted to the U.S. Copyright Office at the Library of Congress, or that the anthologies will be assigned a “number” by the Library of Congress. People often take this to mean that the Library of Congress will add the book to its permanent collections, or will assign it an ISBN number. The National Library of Poetry, in fact, printed ISBNs on its anthologies” copyright pages in such a way that people might assume the numbers were issued by or associated with the Library of Congress:

Copyright page of the National Library of Poetry anthology East of Sunrise.

Copyright page of the National Library of Poetry anthology East of Sunrise.

In practice, the Library rarely adds these books to its collections, and is not responsible for assigning ISBNs to books. Rather, what will usually happen is that the anthology will be registered with the Copyright Office and receive a copyright registration number.

To help people find poems they’ve had published by amateur poetry publishers, the Library has created an online guide to amateur poetry anthologies. The guide discusses the standard practices of these publishers, includes entries on dozens of active and inactive publishers, and offers tips on how to locate the anthologies through libraries and bookstores. If you’re looking for a poem that you, a family member, or a friend submitted to a contest or had published in a poetry anthology, please take a look at the guide and see if it helps with your search. Of course, we are happy to assist you directly as well: simply email your question to our Ask a Librarian service and we’ll do all we can to help you find your poem.

42 Comments

  1. George Cooper lll
    July 22, 2012 at 10:38 am

    I had a poem published in this book in 1986 can I view it? George Cooper lll

    • Peter Armenti
      July 24, 2012 at 2:18 pm

      Hi George. If you’re trying to locate a poem you had published in a poetry anthology published in 1986, please submit your question to the Poetry & Literature Center’s Ask a Librarian Web form. I’ll be happy to help you track it down. Any further details you can provide, such as the name of the book’s publisher, the title of the anthology, or the title of your poem will give me the best chance of locating it. Thanks.

      -Peter Armenti

  2. Stephany
    January 19, 2013 at 12:14 am

    I also had a poem published & recieved papers from ” the national library of poetry” saying I was to be published in one of their volumes. I never got the book though. I would like to know if my poem is there somewhere & if there is a book obtainable. If so I woukd love to purchase a copy. My poem was titled Through All & my name is Stephany Renae Blackard.

    • Peter Armenti
      January 22, 2013 at 9:27 am

      Stephany, I’m going to add your question to our Ask a Librarian service and respond to you outside of these comments. I was able to find a copy of your poem through the Poetry.com database, and will send it to you soon.

  3. laila abrahami
    January 30, 2013 at 4:55 pm

    i have written 2 poems in the library of congress under the greatist poets of the 20th century how can find my poems, thank you.

  4. Helen Farina
    February 9, 2013 at 10:58 am

    I sent a poem in 1996 received a letter back asking me to initial it for accuracy .I was supposed to send it back to 11419-10 Cronridge Drive Post office box 704 Owings Mills Maryland 21117 Phone #410-356-2000 The date was Feb. 5th 1996 I was in the process of moving and never did anything about it Long story short I just found th eletter I now live in Delaware There was a notation to put it in the sound of poetry It said it was a wonderful verse the name of the poem was MY VISION by Helen E Farina please check into this I appreciate it Thank you Hope you understand everything I am just learning te computer and I’m turning 73 so I thought I better do something with my poems I remain Helen Farina

  5. Michael L Lane
    February 12, 2013 at 5:35 am

    I had several poems posted on the “National Library of Poetry” and/or poetry.com. There are several that were entered into contests, but the names of the two most remembered poems are:
    “One and Only Jewel” and “A Single Bloom.” One or both of these poems were supposed to be published in “America at the Millinium: The Best Poems and Poets of the 20th Century.”
    I have been to both sites listed above, several times, and tried to access my poems, but have been unable to do so. If you could help me, I would be ever so grateful. Thanking you in advance for your time and assistance.
    Sincerely,
    Michael L. Lane,
    johnebgood32@yahoo.com

  6. Donald Watkins
    March 1, 2013 at 1:00 pm

    I have three poems that I would like to have published. What courde of action can you recomend

  7. Chris Barach
    March 14, 2013 at 4:11 pm

    I entered a poetry contest from Maryland around 1979-1978. The contest was in our local newspaper. I had papers that said my poem would be published in one of their volumes. My poem was titled “Growing Together”.I was wondering if it was possible to get a copy of the book my poem was in.
    Thank you
    Chris

  8. Christine McVey
    April 4, 2013 at 10:52 am

    I had a poem published in 1993 in the anthology ” Where Dreams Begin” and I would like to know where I can purchase that edition?

    Thank you

  9. The Bastard of Doggerel from evilCozPoetry
    April 7, 2013 at 2:07 pm

    I think it was titled: “Shadows and Light”. Published by the National Library of Poetry. I think in about 1991/2. I don’t remember the title of the poem I submitted. But I do remember that I was nominated for “Poet of the Year”. And I gave permission for my work to be published. As well as giving additional permissions to have come, Soap Opera Personality, read my poem in front of some baroque music, to be recorded on audio tape. I was thinking, like, Cajun? Bar-B-Que? LOL.
    Of course they wanted money too. Which I never gave, But, supposedly that didn’t change my chances of winning. Did anyone ever win that wasn’t affiliated with the company?

    The last name would be Perkins. I can’t remember which given name I gave.
    Can anything be found from the info. I just mentioned?

    Thank you,
    evilC aka “The Bastard of Doggerel” who once thought he was a real cool cat.

  10. Virginia Harmon
    April 14, 2013 at 3:00 pm

    Hi Peter, my name is Virginia Harmon and I hope that you’ll be able to assist me. In 1993, I submitted a poem to The National Library of Poetry and recieved a letter stating that my poem had been chosen to be published in an anthology titled A Break in the Clouds. The name of the poem was My Little Bundle of Joy. I would like to purchase a copy of this anthology if at all possible. Any help you can assist me with in this matter will be greatly appreciated. Thanks
    V. Harmon

  11. Jackie Smith
    June 6, 2013 at 8:24 pm

    I would love to find it at any means possible. The title was “Scars”…Please help me and inform me if I can be of any assistance.
    Thank you
    jackie

  12. Tammy Leach
    June 30, 2013 at 9:53 am

    Hi, I had a poem published in an anthology from the national library of poetry in a book called Of Diamonds and Rust, the poems title was ;Rumors, I recently found a copy and bought it but I did not realize there was more than one volume, the volume i bought is volume two. My poem was not there, i am trying to find the right volume I am in and purchase it. I originally had a copy but it got destroyed any help would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.

  13. Gail Berreitter
    July 21, 2013 at 9:33 am

    I want to thank you for this information as it was confusing to me when I was getting emails from them about being published. All they wanted was to have me send money to get the award and to be published.

    I have a number of poems published through the National Library of Poetry. I, too, would like to know if they got into an anthology. Also, how do you see these anthologies?

    Painful Knowledge and Come Talk to me were two of my poems. I thought I did another, but can’t remember.

    Thank you!
    Gail

  14. Daphne Allen-Haas
    September 22, 2013 at 1:36 am

    I would love to view or locate my poem submited & published into the National Library of Poetry thr title is
    “Broken Leafs” I ws suppose to recieve a book as well with my published poem I ws around the age of sixteen when I submited my poem.I am now almost 35 years old and would also love to submit more but mainly I want to find my already submited poem from years ago and possible find out why I never recieved thr book after hours and many correct ing errors in the way that they deemed fit, thank ttu and I really hope I find my poem
    “BROKEN LEAFS” BY:DAPHNE ALLEN
    THANK YOU KINDLY

  15. Brenda Dixon
    January 17, 2014 at 7:21 pm

    I am trying to find out if a poem I wrote in 1997 was published in the Sound of Poetry….

    hope you can help.

  16. Sheila
    January 24, 2014 at 3:38 pm

    Hi,
    I see you are helping amateur poets find submissions. I have a poem in the National Library of Poetry’s 1996 or ’97 anthology “Into the Unknown”. I purchased a copy as described in the above article and have since lost it. Would like to replace it but not with the blue hard copy offered by the female editor. It is a burgundy book with a square picture of trees I believe. Thank you for your help.

  17. chase positerry
    January 25, 2014 at 6:46 pm

    wrote poem called the game for the national library of poetry owings mills maryland the book was called on wings of the wind need to see if i can buy that book

  18. Vincent T. Gallegos
    February 5, 2014 at 12:37 pm

    I had submitted a poem back in the 90′s and was wondering if you still have the book available to purchase. The name of the poem was “Our Golden Dreams”.

  19. Elizabeth A. Dougherty, Spicer
    February 6, 2014 at 12:24 pm

    Dear Peter, Good Day! I submitted a poem around the year 1995-1996 called “REFLECTIONS” published into a book called THROUGH THE HOUR GLASS… Into the National Library of poetry! I was also asked to resubmit my poem for the Millenium but didn’t even have the funds to buy the first book. I don’t know if this book of poetry has one Volume or 2. Please if you could send me some information of how I can obtain a copy of this book. And to inform me if it cost me anything for you to respond to these questions and answers? Thank You, Elizabeth +++

  20. Brenda Dixon
    February 12, 2014 at 7:57 pm

    I have recently sent a letter of request ot the NLP and I had it returned

    Iwondered if someone could send me the latest address of this organization.

    the National Library of Poetry as at 2014.

  21. Janet
    February 17, 2014 at 1:08 pm

    I had a poem that I wrote and it was printed in a book called Tracing Shadows. I was told it would be in the National Library of Congress. If you wanted a copy of the book with your poem printed in it, you had to buy the book. That may be why some of you never got a book. I thought I would past that along to everyone. The book has thousands of poems in it and in the back, it has a bio about the person who wrote the poem. You had to give them permission to print that information if you wanted it featured in the year that your poem was written.

  22. CAROL DANIELS (RIFFLE)
    April 13, 2014 at 10:03 pm

    my mother…wrote a lot of poems and sent them to you. my mother passed dec24 2012. we were looking through her papers and found one of your proof of the poems. it was called summer rain. she had one published i don’t know what year but i would like to have all the poems she sent you. do you keep them long? the one about summer rain has a date of dec 30 1994. is there any way you could send me her poems. thank you carol daniels.

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