If the patron knows the author, it's often fastest to check your shelves for a book of that author's poems. For example, if the author is Tennyson, the quickest ways to find one of his poems is to look in a book like THE COMPLETE POEMS OF TENNYSON.
If only the title, subject or first line is known, the most productive first step is to use an index to poetry anthologies, like GRANGER'S INDEX TO POETRY. Remember GRANGER'S does NOT index anthologies devoted to one author. THE COMPLETE POEMS OF TENNYSON, for example, will not be indexed in GRANGER'S.
READERS' GUIDE indexes poems in magazines. From 1919-1957 and 1982/83 to date you can find poems by title under the subject heading "Poems". There are also subject and author listings. For the years 1958-81/82 poems are indexed in READERS' GUIDE but are listed by author, title and subject, not all together under one heading.
Quotation dictionaries can often help you find poems when what you know is not a first line.
Many "poems" are really song lyrics, so it may help you to try song indexes.
Make sure you check out the PoemFinder database information in the electronic resources section.
Bartleby.com is another source to check as it indexes verse.
Go to Granger's Index to Poetry.
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