POETRY IN THE PUBLIC DOMAIN
Following is a selection of some of my favorite poems which fall within the "public domain."
The "public domain", of course, is that legal and moral space in which intellectual and artistic material is no longer considered to be privately, but rather, collectively owned: a common social resource, free to be reprinted and transmitted without limitation or constraint.
I am, myself, a strong believer in copyright protection for artists and creators, no matter what arguments others may put forth concerning the value of the "free exchange and universal accessibility" of ideas, information, and art. This is because without copyright protection, the creator frequently loses his ability to make a living from what he creates: which ultimately, in many cases, serves to limit his ability to create at all. And the creator may also be denied rightful recognition for what he has done - and whose work does not seek to capture a measure of respect, as well as beauty? I believe in copyright restrictions as a support to artists in their own lifetimes, and as a device of mental comfort to them as they near the end of their lifetimes, so that they may pass on some of the economic and psychological benefits of their labors to their direct heirs.
After a considerable period of time, however - a period of time which is defined by U.S. and international copyright law - this protection, which, while it is in effect, does not allow creative work to be reproduced or in any way utilized, without permission from the creator, his agent, or his heir - expires, leaving the work open to reproduction and use by any interested party. (For works created and properly registered at this time [I write this in 2004] copyright protection generally covers the lifetime of the author, plus 70 years.) Work whose copyright protection has reached this state of expiration is said to have fallen into the "public domain."
Obviously, antique works such as Shakespeare's plays and sonnets are now part of the public domain, and may be freely reprinted in books and/or on the Internet. (So is Cervantes' Don Quixote - as long as it is reproduced in its original Spanish form. However, many English versions of this famous novel may still not fall into the public domain, since translations are also copyrightable works of art, and the protection of some modern translations of this 17th-century masterpiece may not yet have expired.)
Laws pertaining to copyright and the transition of copyrightable material into the public domain are clear, but also somewhat complicated, and not immutable. In recent years, for example, new legislation extended the benefits of copyright protection, postponing the scheduled entry of some important and cherished works into the public domain and leading to the "re-privatization" of some others. In this way, many poems by Robert Frost which had begun to appear on the Internet, were "recaptured" - legally, if not always logistically - and returned to private hands (not Frosts', of course - he passed away in 1963). Although I regret the fact that, as a result, I cannot now publish some of my favorite poems by Robert Frost on this web site, I staunchly stand by the new laws, and all efforts made on behalf of the interests of creators, everywhere, to protect their work, and its prestige and benefits, for significant, effective, and fair amounts of time. I believe, for many, that it comes down to a matter of survival - and to the creator's right to look out for his family
On this site, I will only publish creative work that I have received permission to publish; or creative work which clearly falls within the public domain.
I expect this section to grow little by little. Please be patient with it. And enjoy!
POEMS BY WILLIAM BUTLER YEATS
THE RUBAIYAT OF OMAR KHAYYAM
A SAMPLER OF ENGLISH POETRY
SELECTED SONNETS BY WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE
A WEE BIT OF SCOTLAND: POEMS AND LYRICS
A SAMPLER OF IRISH LYRICS
POEMS MY GRANDFATHER RECITED TO ME
LYRICS TO SOME FAMOUS FOLK SONGS: A SAMPLER
POEMS BY ROBERT FROST
POEMS BY WALT WHITMAN
POEMS BY EDGAR ALLAN POE AND LEWIS CARROLL
Poetry & Lyrics Contents
Creative Safehouse Contents