How do you know when a poem was written, or first published? Wouldn't it be good if poems were listed chronologically rather than alphabetically, so you could track a poet's development?
That assumes I am knowledgeable enough to appreciate a particular poet's development (or regression) if I had such information, which I am not.
Stephen, from a practical standpoint, could you imagine trying to find something from Emily Dickinson's work by date? But it definitely would be a good idea to tack the date BESIDE the title, so that scholarly types like you could easily see which work came first.
The University of Toronto site has a chronological listing of poets on their site.
That definitely helps scholars put a poet ino the time frame of his writing.
When written is more use than published. So that, when meeting a poem for the first time, on loss of a loved one say, you can guess if the loss was single or part of something bigger. 911 would probably give a different response than a mugging that went wrong.
I know you are referring to the 'Big Name' poets, but on a more personal level, I most enjoy some of YOUR stuff that was written in the throes of teen angst!
I think that from the point of view of using the list as a 'look-up,' alphabetical is best. If I know that I'm looking for 'Zanzibar,' I can skip alphabet listings A-Y. I think that adding publication dates would be useful, though.
My wish is that we could put the numbered poems, such as Shakespeare's sonnets in numerical, rather than alphabetical order. In the current system, Sonnet CV (105) comes before Sonnet X (10).
How would you date a poem that is written to apparent completion, then put aside, then substantially revised before publication years later?
For some of the long dead poets you can get a variorum of their work that includes all known versions of their poems.
So much depends on how their work has been recorded. The British Library does have many manuscripts and last time I was there I was looking at an exhibit of various versions of Thomas Gray's Elegy in a Country Churchyard.
For more recent poets, it seems to be harder. There is an interesting edition of The Waste Land that I have that includes the revisions made by Eliot and those suggested by Pound.
Where dates are known, most good editions of complete or selected works do tend to record the poems chronologically.
Modern technology is a problem in seeing things like drafts- writers who work electronically may not save versions, so we don't know how something has changed. (Then there's the whole readability issue.......)
Stephen, the S. T. Coleridge link that Hugh gave us for that query gives the very type of reference that I was referring to above. That is; it give an alphabetical, chronological, and first line link to each poem.