Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Subject Headings vs. Google

In my attempts to locate literature referencing the LCSH used to catalog poetry, I have run into a dead end. What I am realizing is that most poetry has been published in a rebound format which is usually selected and compiled by an editor. As this is the case, it likely does not make sense to have subject headings on a compilation as there would be far too many to list. However, what most anthologies contain is an index. For example, the index of my Norton Anthology contains several types of references. First, there is the actual poem titles and the authors. Also included are the first lines of each poem and the key words from the extra sections that were written by the editors with regards to the styles and composition of poetry.

My question is this: what is the best way to locate a specific poem? Let us say, for instance, that you are trying to find a poem that you remember hearing in your childhood, but all that you can remember is that it had something to do with walking through fields of daffodils. Could you use LCSH? Probably not. Could you use a (gasp) keyword search? I tried this, using simply keywords "daffodil" and "poem." The Library of Congress catalog search yielded some definitely unrelated records. The catalog of the Hennepin County Library gave nothing. What about Google? In a search for "daffodil poem," the first record that comes up is "William Wordsworth's 'Daffodils,'" (www.blupete.com/Literature/Poetry/WordsworthDaffodils.htm) and the second is a Wikipedia link to "I Wandered Lonely As A Cloud" (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I_Wandered_Lonely_as_a_Cloud) Since I am more familiar with Wikipedia, I clicked on that link. Sure enough, there in a box on the right hand side is the poem I remember.

What does this mean? Obviously, the purpose of LCSH are not to be a random memory poem locating devices. My real question is: how would I have found this poem without the use of Google or the internet? Is there an indexing or catalogin resource available that existed before the ease of keyword searching? Hopefully by my next entry I will have found an answer to that question or at least some clue to point me in the right direction. For now, here is the poem, complete with LCSH subtitles:

I Wandered Lonely As a Cloud
by William Wordsworth

I wandered lonely as a cloud (Loneliness, Social isolation, Clouds)
That floats on high o'er vales and hills, (Landscape, Nature)
When all at once I saw a crowd (Visual perception)
A host, of golden daffodils; (Daffodils, Narcissus)
Beside the lake, beneath the trees, (Lakes, Shade trees)
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze. (Dance, Atmospheric circulation)

Continuous as the stars that shine (Stars)
And twinkle on the milky way, (Galaxies)
They stretched in never-ending line (Infinite)
Along the margin of a bay: (Shorelines)
Ten thousand saw I at a glance, (Visual perception)
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance. (Dance)

The waves beside them danced; but they (Dance, Water waves)
Outdid the sparkling waves in glee; (Water waves, Happiness)
A poet could not but be gay, (Poets, Happiness)
In such a jocund company; (Happiness)
I gazed - and gazed - but little thought (Visual perception)
What wealth the show to me had brought: (Well-being, Performance art)

For oft, when on my couch I lie (Relaxation)
In vacant of in pensive mood, (Anxiety)
They flash upon that inward eye (Flashbulb memory)
Which is the bliss of solitude; (Solitude, Privacy, Loneliness)
And then my heart with pleasure fills, (Happiness)
And dances with the daffodils. (Dance, Daffodils)

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Let's Start at the Very Beginning...

Greetings Followers! Welcome to my first blog entry! As I am now approaching the day when my "rough draft" should be submitted for this project, I figured it was time to really get working. I have been mulling over the format for my entries, and I think that I am going to attempt a few different methods. For this first entry, I am going to give a little background on my topic choice. While I am certainly an ardent admirer of poetry, I am by no means an expert in the field. However, one of my most valuable books (at least in sentimental value) is my copy of The Norton Anthology of Poetry (Shorter 4th ed.). It was a required purchase for an undergrad literature course, and it's a book that is never far from my reach.

Towards the end of the book, on page 1103 to be exact, there is a section entitled "Versification" which is written by one of the editors, Jon Stallworthy. He has quite a bit to say about the purpose and "voice" of poetry, in particular, that "the more one understands versification (the principles and practice of writing verse), the more one is likely to understand and appreciate poetry and, in particular, the intimate relationship between its form and its content."

Taking this rather lovely description into account, I turn now to the perhaps not so poetic realm of Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH). For those of you who are not educated in this field, LCSH are the authorized terms used by the Library of Congress to identify the subjects of a cataloged work. The full listing of these terms can be found on the Library of Congress website (http://authorities.loc.gov/) by choosing "Search Authorities" and then entering a term. For example, when using "Poetry" as a search term, the authorized reference comes up with 2307 bib records. Clicking on this reveals a long list of "Narrower Terms" associated with the main authority heading of "150 Poetry."

At first glance, this seems like a lot of choices! So let's take a look at the first three on the list: Albas, Anacreontic poetry and Anapestic poetry. Hm. I'm pretty sure I've never heard of ANY of these, so let's dig a little deeper and check on the term "Albas." In the authority record for "150 Albas," the 450 field, which is the "use for" listing is "Dawn songs (poetry)." That still isn't terribly clear. So let's look under the cross reference 550 fields: Love poetry, Lyric poetry, and Poetry. This is more helpful, but it's the 670 field that really helps: "Eos : an inquiry into the theme of lovers' meetings and partings at dawn in poetry, 1965."

I think that is about as far as I'm going to delve for my first entry as far as the LCSH for cataloging poetry goes - for the moment. However, I am going to conclude with something "fun." My goal is to end each entry with a poem from my Norton Anthology and to bring it up to LCSH standards. My first attempt will be Robert Burns' "A Red, Red Rose."

(Format: Line of poem followed by LCSH version or references in parentheses. Please note that words from LCSH will be taken exactly as the authority record appears. My apologies to the author.)

O my luve's like a red, red rose, (See also: Love, Roses)
That's newly sprung in June; (See also: Horticulture or Gardening)
O my luve's like the melodie (See also: Love, Music)
That's sweetly played in tune. (See also: Intonation (Musical pitch))

As fair art thou, my bonnie lass (See also: Interpersonal attraction)
So deep in luve am I; (See also: Love, Intimacy (Psychology))
And I will luve thee still, my dear, (See also: Love, Promises)
Till a' the seas gang dry. (See also: Global warming)

Till a' the seas gang dry, my dear, (See also: Global warming, Terms of endearment, Love--terminology)
And the rocks melt wi' the sun; (See also: Lava, Volcanic soils, Sun, Light sources)
O I will love thee still, my dear (See also: Love, Promises, Terms of endearment)
While the sands o' life shall run. (See also: Life expectancy)

And fare thee weel, my only luve, (See also: Farewells, Separation (Psychology))
And fare thee weel awhile! (See above)
And I will come again, my luve, (See also: Homecoming, Travel)
Though it were then thousand mile. (See also: Standards of length, Weights and measures, length measurement)