Cite a Poem in an Essay Using MLA Format Properly

How to Quote and Cite a Poem in MLA Format

Formatting direct quotations is an entire art when it comes to writing a school or college essay. Even though MLA writing style is considered the simplest, you still have to know how to add citations properly, especially when talking about the poem. The poem is something different from prose by its nature, so the formatting rules are also a bit different.

First of all, a student has to realize why it is crucial to quote a poem from time to time. Often, various essays are assigned to the students of English Literature or Arts class:

  1. Descriptive
  2. Reflective
  3. Critical thinking
  4. Argumentative
  5. Compare & contrast

Reasons to Cite Quotes from Poem

To prove your words and the fact that you have read the story, it is critical to insert direct and indirect quotes. To cite means to apply exact words of the discussed authors in your academic essay. Under the MLA writing style, a student should develop quotations in various ways. It all depends on the length.

  1. Short poem quotations include less than 3 lines (for prose, 4 lines are used).
  2. Long quotations have to be more than 3 lines of the poem (or 4 lines of prose). You will have to cite multiple paragraph quotes.

Moreover, students may sometimes need to insert words to direct quotations to explain or omit words that play no role. Thus, students are not encouraged to cite unnecessary parts of the poem.

Format Your Title Properly!

Sure thing, it is necessary to start citing the poem correctly from its title. As you may know, sometimes quotation marks are used instead of italics. But which way should you choose?

Well, this decision also depends on the size of the poem. If you need to cite a short poem, do it this way:

Longer poems have to be cited in italics. Let’s have a look at several examples:

The titles of short poems are always put in quotation marks. As for the long poems, as you have noticed, their titles are written in italics.

How to Cite Short Direct Quotations from Poems in MLA?

Before writing, one has to learn the basic rules of the corresponding format. You may have a look at the valuable example or find a good book dedicated to academic writing styles. Sure thing, you must read the poem as well. Otherwise, you won’t know which parts have to be chosen for your essay and cited properly.

As it was said above, short quotes from poems are those that involve less than three lines of text. Make sure you obey these rules when you decide to cite a quotation from poem in English paper:

Let’s have a look at a sample

Replace breaks with a “/,” insert a space before and after the slash mark. Mind that the line of the poem is applied instead of the page number for the parenthetical quotation. The only exception is a poem being cited in a secondary source. Capitalize every line of verse intact after the slash mark.

In Adrienne Rich’s “Aunt Jennifer’s Tigers,” Rich says that “Uncle’s wedding

band / Sits heavily upon Aunt Jennifer’s hand” (7-8).  The band evidently is a

sign of the oppression.

You should provide the line numbers only in case your source shares them, in parentheses, just after the ending quotation marks and before the final punctuation.

How to Cite Long Direct Quotations from Poems in MLA?

If you need to cite a longer part of the poem (more than three lines of verse), here are the steps to applying MLA style properly in such case.

How to cite a long quotation from poem in MLA – an example:

Emily Dickinson concludes “I’m Nobody! Who Are You?” with a characteristically bittersweet stanza:

How dreary to be somebody!

How public, like a frog

To tell your name the livelong June

To an admiring bog! (5-8)

Other Rules of Citing Poems

The Golden Rule number one states: if the students cite a poem, they must add valuable feedback or comments to explain why particular lines were chosen to share. It is necessary to inform the reader what you make of this specific quote and why it is important in the context of your essay topic.

You can mix quotations into the sentences of your own. They don’ have to be added unless you get your reader ready for these quotations. The best way to do so is shown in the example below:

Alexander Pope’s pastoral episode is determined by grief and deep depression, due to the fact that spectator, who is asked to “see gloomy clouds obscure the cheerful day” (5), is present at the funeral.

As you can see, a quote may become an actual part of the sentence

Apply 3-spaced period to highlight omissions. It does not matter whether the quote is long or really short, a student has to modify some of the given information in it to fit the sentence requirements. Skip anything from the poem quotation which sounds insignificant for your main idea. It is simple to exclude unnecessary parts: indicate such parts with 3-spaced periods (...).

Add square brackets in order to include your own interpretations within citations. If you insert words of your authorship to integrate the cited part into your train of discourse or to interpret words that might be ambiguous, paste square-shaped brackets around these words.

Remember: you should not overload your text with quotations from the discussed poem. Cite the words of others without getting too enthusiastic. Direct citations have to occupy only a mall part of your entire essay. Paraphrasing or rewriting some words from the poem is a better way to recall certain episodes. Still, poem quotation is one of the best methods to prove you’ve really read the text.