How to Cite a Poem: MLA Formatting Style Guide

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How to Cite a Poem: MLA Formatting Style Guide
Table of Contents
  1. How to Cite a Poem: MLA Formatting Style Guide
  2. When Should You Cite a Poem?
  3. How to Cite a Poem in MLA?
  4. Poem Title
  5. Short Quotes
  6. Long Quotes
  7. Other Recommendations
  8. Conclusion

Citing sources is a necessity when it comes to writing an academic paper. There are several known formatting styles to follow: MLA, APA, Chicago, ASA style, and others. It might not seem complicated at first sight, but one must know how to cite sources correctly. For others, working with quotes may be a real struggle.

Since poem and prose are entirely two different things by their nature, the formatting rules differ. This article will help you find information on how to cite a poem and get an A+ on your essay.

When Should You Cite a Poem?

Citing a poem has its specific requirements. To quote something means to apply the exact words of the author in your academic essay. One needs to realize when it is appropriate to cite a poem. It is essential to find the best quotes for citing – the examples that will convey the text's whole meaning.  Check these simple points that will help you get the idea:

  • Each time you want to quote a phrase or a verse from a poem, you should use citations. If you do not cite a borrowed idea, it will be plagiarism. 
  • Put the in-text citation at the end of the paraphrased parts of the text. You don't need quotation marks in this case. 
  • You should insert a quote if you want to prove your point. Using direct or even indirect ones will help you impress your readers.

As you can see, you should cite a poem if you take a direct quote from the lines or if you restate the same idea with different words. Just remember to place poem titles in quotation marks and don't underline them.

Also, there are many nuances you need to keep in mind while working in a particular citation style. That's why most students prefer to entrust this task to professionals who can 'do my essay.'

How to Cite a Poem in MLA?

Modern Language Association style is used to write papers in humanities and liberal arts. This formatting style is not hard, but there are some peculiarities to know. It can be boring to study bulky MLA Guidelines online. So we decided to gather some of the crucial ideas in a comprehensive but easy-to-read text. Hopefully, it will help you succeed with your writing.

Poem Title

It is necessary to start citing a poem correctly from its title. You can do it in two ways. You can either use quotation marks or highlight the title in italics. But when should you use each of the options?

It depends on the poem’s title size. If you are referring to a short one, do it the following way:

"Our Brothers"

Highlight the long title of the poem in italics. For example:

Tape for the Turn of the Year
The Sea and the Mirror

Short Quotes

Before citing a poem, pay attention to how long the selected quotes are. Short citations from a poem are those that involve less than three lines of the text. Here is how you should cite those:

  • Apply quotation marks to the direct quote from the chosen literary piece.
  • Mention the author's name, and page number or line number.
  • Locate punctuation after the parenthetical quotation.
  • Add question or exclamation signs that belong to the citation inside the quotation marks.
  • If some of the words do not belong to the quote, leave them outside the quotation marks.
  • Don't forget to reference the source you use on your essay's works cited page.

Replace breaks with the forward-slash mark (/).  Insert a space before and after it. Mind that the line of the poem is applied instead of the page number for the parenthetical quotation. The only exception is a citation of a secondary source. Capitalize every line of verse intact after the slash mark.

Let's have a look at the examples.

Short Quote Example Short Quote Sample

Long Quotes

The rules of using long quotes slightly differ from those for short ones. 

Here are the MLA style guidelines for quoting large passages:

  • Using block quotes is a must.
  • Skip quotation marks.
  • Begin to quote directly from a new line.
  • Indent the first word of each paragraph only if you have to quote several sections;
  • Apply double-spacing in the quote.
  • Involve parenthetical citation, which will follow after the final punctuation.
  • Use a double slash mark (//) if the verse has a break between the lines.

Here are a couple of examples to help you get a clear picture.

Long Quote Example Long Quote Sample

Other Recommendations

How to Cite a Poem in APA?

It is another style popular in social sciences and has features that sometimes differ from the MLA formatting. Consider these rules when you need to cite a poem in APA style:

  • Use quotation marks with short poem quotes (up to 40 words). 
  • There is no need to start a new line in your essay to set off the quote.
  • If you want to cite more than one line of the poem, you must indicate the line breaks. For this purpose, use forward-slash (/) between the lines.
  • If you need to make more extended quotes, use block quotations and begin them from a new line.

Explain Your Choice

If you cite a poem, add valuable feedback or comments to explain why you chose particular lines of poetry to share. Inform your reader about the reason for this choice. Specify why that quote is essential in the context of your essay topic.

Embed Quotes

You can mix quotations into sentences of your own. Quotes can be at the beginning, ending, or in the center of the sentence. Don't add them unless your reader is ready to see them. Check the example below.

Embed Quote Example

If You Skip the Words

Apply a 3-spaced period to highlight omissions. It does not matter whether the poem quote is long or short. It would be great to modify some of the given information to fit the sentence requirements.

Poem Quote Example

If You Include Your Own Words

If you insert your own words to integrate into the cited part, put square-shaped brackets around these words. You can also use this method to interpret words that might be ambiguous.

Poem Quote Sample

Consider the Number of Quotes

Do not overload your writing with quotations from the discussed poem. Quote lines of poetry without getting too enthusiastic. Direct citations have to occupy a considerably small part of your essay. Paraphrasing or rewriting some pieces from the text is a better way to recall specific episodes.

Keep in mind, we have a blog about Chicago style annotated bibliography in our database.


Using quotes to prove your argument can be a robust tool to consider. They can help you justify that you understood the authors and the aim of their work. Furthermore, the usage of quotes will make your writing look more profound and engaging to the readers.

We hope that this article has shed some light on how to cite a poem in an essay. However, if you still think that it's something of rocket science, you can trust us to do the job for you. Our writers will help you get an outstanding paper with correctly cited materials. If you need any assistance or advice, don't hesitate to contact us!