Earlier this year, when we were planning our National Poetry Month lineup, we were delighted to “discover” the Australian Poetry Library– it’s a wonderful resource that provides access to over 42,000 poems by 170 Australian poets. These works are available online at the Australian Poetry Library website, which is easy to search and browse. In addition to a comprehensive search function (you can search by author name, gender, and decade, and once you find what you want, similar works are suggested in a sidebar), the site hosts a growing collection of audio and video recordings of poets reading their work. You can also create poem sets for yourself or for classroom use, and the site hosts poem reviews and author profiles for some of the featured poets.
Library as Incubator Project (LAIP): What are some of the unique ways that the APL is supporting the creation of new work by poets in Australia?
Susan Murray-Smith (SMS): The most interesting way we support poets is by providing a way for users to purchase a selection of poems from the APL, and the money goes back to the poets. I really love the idea of people creating a custom selection of poems and then receiving their PDF of the selection, complete with their Collection name and Contents page. When I am monitoring the site, I see people create collections called “Poem for Dan” or “Australia Day” or “Funeral Poems” and know that they have found something that fits their purpose.
New work is not the primary focus of the APL. It was intended in the first instance as a repository for poetry that was already published, and being studied at secondary and tertiary levels. However once the site was released, we got a lot of interest from poets requesting that their poetry also be included. As we don’t have ongoing funding, we haven’t worked out how to incorporate new content yet–both in terms of selection, and in the conversion to XML and upload to the database– but we do hope that we will be able to continue to add to the site in the future. We are currently developing some governance and editorial policies to work out how to manage this.
SMS: We try to promote poetry the APL to our target audiences – teachers and students – through traditional and internet promotion strategies. In the past, I’ve had a trade stand at the annual English teachers conference to demonstrate the site.
We also use student curators to work on the site. The current curator is Claire Nashar, who has just finished honours in Australian literature at Sydney University. She selects the poets for the home page, writes reviews of poems, maintains the Facebook page, including posting snippets of poems, questions etc. She also works with the poets to troubleshoot web display for their work.
LAIP: What has been the response to the APL so far?
SMS: Our primary target audiences are university and school students, and their teachers. We’ve generally had positive feedback about the site. As mentioned earlier, I demonstrated the site at and English teachers conference, and they were enthusiastic about how they could incorporate it into their teaching. Australian English curriculum has themes like ‘belonging’ and ‘landscape’ and the literature teachers and students choose to relate can come from many sources. So we are trying to tag the poems by more themes, to help in this process. Teachers also see it as a useful resource for assignments where students need to source a poem and then analyze it. They know they can point them at our site and they will be able to find something useful.
Thanks, visiting your user-friendly website has been enjoyable. In particular, it has allowed me to read and listen to some poems of AD Hope – whose oeuvre is not readily available in the UK. ~APL User Feedback
LAIP: What’s on the horizon for APL? Any exciting new initiatives to share?
SMS: As you can imagine, there’s always something we’d like to improve on the website. We’re hoping to do some enhancements this year to improve layout–poets are very particular about how their work appears on the page, even when the page is a screen! We’re also looking at a functional improvement to allow teachers to purchase a class license for a set of poems. Under the current system, a teacher can create a selection of poems and email it to the class, but each student needs to purchase their own PDF of the selected poems.
The other thing we want to do is integrate the site with our print-on-demand service, so that you could order a hard copy of your selection of poems, or again, a class set or multiple copies for an event.
(See the launch Anthology example linked above! [PDF])
- Like the Australian Poetry Library on Facebook and follow @AusPoetryLib on Twitter.
- For more on how the Australian Poetry Library got started, check out this article by Elizabeth Webby, Professor Emerita of Australian Literature at the University of Sydney, who led the research project that resulted in the APL: “Putting Australian Poetry Online” from Axon.
- Listen to Craig Powell reading his poem, “Terra Nullius” online (find the audio player under “Media”). As Susan says, “He has such a beautiful voice!”