How to Cite a Poem: The Ultimate MLA Formatting Style Guide

How to Cite a Poem: The Ultimate MLA Formatting Style Guide

Citing is an entire art when it comes to writing a school or college essay. There are a lot of formatting styles and MLA writing style is the simplest one, we recommend to use it. But even if it doesn’t seem complicated, you have to know how to add citations properly. Especially when talking about the poem. Since the poem and the prose are completely two different things by their nature, the formatting rules differ as well. In this article, you can find lots of useful updated information on how to cite a poem.

When Should You Cite a Poem?

A student has to realize why it is crucial to make a poetry citation in the essay and when there is such a requirement. When you are a student, various writing assignments may be given to you. If you are a student of English, Literature, or Arts classes, you will have to submit dozens of essays of different types:

  • Descriptive;
  • Reflective;
  • Critical thinking;
  • Classification essay;
  • Argumentative;
  • Compare & contrast, etc.

When you work on these essays or on the research paper, your good skills in the book and poem citing will be nothing less than perfect. Check the best ways to get ready with your homework as fast as possible.

Everything You Need to Know About Citing a Poem

Poem citing has its specific requirements, which ae a bit different from siting a common text. Check them out:
  • Each time you want to quote a phrase or when you want to borrow an author’s idea from the published edition, you should use citations. Without citation, it will be a plagiarism.
  • Indicate that the words or ideas are borrowed and important in the context of our paper;
  • If you paraphrase some parts of the text, then you don’t need quotation marks, but you need to put the in-text citation at the end of the idea;
  • Always place poem titles in quotation marks. Remember that you should not underline them;
  • If you need to delete a whole line of a poem or more than one line, you should use a line of ellipses. It is not bad if you delete the information which is not meaningful in the context of your paper, but you should indicate it.

What is MLA Formatting Style?

Modern Language Association formatting style is the most popular style which is used to write essays and other papers and citing poems in them in the field of humanities and liberal arts. This formatting style is not really hard, but there are some peculiarities which you need to learn. It is boring to study MLA Guidelines and it takes pretty much time. There are a lot of rules which regulate poem citing in MLA style, if you don’t follow them, your text can be considered by your teacher as a plagiarism. But you’re lucky to find this article during your search. We gathered all important rules in one comprehensive text and you can easily succeed with your analytical essay or any other paper with our help.

Insights about Citing Poem Quotes in MLA Style

It is critical to insert direct and indirect quotes from the selected poem when you want to prove your words and the fact that you have read it. Isn’t it? To cite something means to apply exact words of the author in your academic essay. Under the MLA writing style, a student should develop quotations in various ways. It all depends on the length.

  • Short quotations from poetry include less than 3 lines (for prose, 4 lines are used). Check an example from Edgar Allan Poe.
As of someone gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
Tis some visitor,' I muttered, `tapping at my chamber door -
Only this, and nothing more
  • Long quotations have to be more than 3 lines of the literary piece (or 4 lines of prose). You will have to cite multiple paragraph quotes. The example of such quote to cite may be the lines by DeFord:
The broken hearts of yesterday
But wait, be still, don't lose this way
Affection now, for what you guess
May be something more, could be less
Accept my love, live for today.

Moreover, sometimes students may need to insert in-text direct citations to explain or omit words that play no role. Thus, students are not encouraged to cite unnecessary parts.

It is important to be able to find the best parts of the text for citing – the examples which will convey the whole meaning of the text. Without proper research skills, you won't be able to choose the most relevant texts to quote, improve your research capabilities using these tips.

How to Cite the Title of the Poem Correctly?

It is necessary to start citing a poem correctly from its title. You can do it in different ways: you can use italics, sometimes quotation marks are used instead of italics. But which way is proper?

This decision depends on the size of the title of the poem which you want to cite. If you need to cite a short title, do it the following way:

  • "Be Proud of Who You Are";
  • "Our Brothers";
  • "Forever";
  • "Life's Own Battle".
Longer poem titles must be cited in italics. Let's have a look at several examples:
  • Tape for the Turn of the Year;
  • The Sea and the Mirror;
  • The Age of Anxiety.

Short poem titles use in quotation marks, as for the long poem titles, as you have noticed, they are written in italics.

For more ideas on writing an essay, turn to this article.

5 Tips and Tricks on How to Cite a Poem in MLA Format

Working on the MLA format, when you cite a poem, is the simplest task you can imagine as it does not require much time and efforts. Instead of reading lengthy manuals, keep to these short guidelines. Read all secrets here.

  1. Each time you cite a quotation from a poetry (it can be several words or the whole paragraph) place the citations off with quotation marks around them. Insert parentheses to quote the exact words of the author. Always leave punctuation marks - period or comma outside the end parenthesis. The number next to the citation corresponds to the number of the specific line. Check the example below.

"According to the lyrics of the author, "and every fair from fair sometime declines" (7).

  1. If you decide to quote lines that follow each other, type in a virgule (/) to define where the chosen lines "divide". In parenthesis, provide the name of the author, breaking them apart with the help of a hyphen.

  2. If you should include more than 4 consecutive lines, apply "long quotation"; or the so-called blockquote. Print a short signal phrase in the introduction of your quote; indent it two times; double space. Leave punctuation marks the way they appear in the original text.

  3. Other elements of poetry citation formatting appear in the way you would cite a prose with the rights reserved.

  4. Whatever you quote, always proofread and edit the way you cited quotations.

Correct Ways to Cite Short Poem Quotations in MLA Format

Before writing the essay, one has to learn the basic rules of the corresponding format when citing a poem. Because citing a poem for an analysis essay is as important as https for the URL. You may have a look at the valuable example, find a good book or guide dedicated to academic writing styles. You must read the poetry as well. Or you won't realize which parts you need to choose for your essay and quotations.

Before you cite a poem, pay attention to how long the selected quotes are to identify their type. Short quotes from poetry are those that involve less than three lines of the text. Make sure you obey these rules when you decide to cite a quotation from poetry in your English paper.

Main rules you need to know for proper citing

  1. Apply quotation marks. Apply them to the direct quote from the chosen literary piece.
  2. Mention the author's initial name, full title, and page number or line number;
  3. Locate punctuation after the parenthetical quotation;
  4. Add questions or exclamation marks that belong to the citation inside the quotation marks;
  5. Leave them outside if they don’t belong to the original writer's words;
  6. Don't forget about the full reference to the source on the Bibliography page at the end of your essay in the MLA format.

Let's Have a Look at an Example

Replace breaks with the mark "/," 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 work 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.

Another example is the following: As he mentioned, "Till the leaves went whirling with him / Till the dust and wind together / Swept in eddies round about him" (10-12).

When you cite a poem, you should provide the line numbers only if your source shares them, in parentheses, just after the ending quotation marks and before the final punctuation.

You can find even more poem's quotation samples online here!

Should There Be Line Numbers when Citing a Poem in MLA Format?

Usually, there shoud not be line numbers. You need to add them only if they are present in the original poem for the sake of authenticity. If you do not them in a direct quote, it means you have lightly changed the original source. If there are no number, it is logical not to add them.

Known-Ways How to Cite Long Direct Quotes in MLA Format

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

  1. It is recommended to use a freestanding block of text (k.a. Block quote);
  2. Skip quotation marks;
  3. Begin to quote directly from a new line;
  4. Indent the first word of each paragraph only if you have to quote several paragraphs;
  5. Apply double-space in the quote;
  6. Involve parenthetical citation which will follow after the final punctuation.

Good Examples of Long Direct Quotation Citing

Sample 1:

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).

Sample 2:

He celebrated his triumph as quoted in these lines of the poem:
He brought in triumph back the beauteous dame,
With whom her sister, fair Emilia, came.
With honor to his home, let Theseus ride,
With Love to friend, and Fortune for his guide (9-12).

How to Cite a Poem in APA Style?

It is another formatting style which is popular in social sciences and has its own features. Consider some rules when you need to cite a poem in APA style:

  • With short poem quotes (up to 40 words) you should use quotation marks. At the same time, there is no need to start a new line in your essay to set off the quote.
  • In case if you want to cite more than one line of the poem, you have to indicate the line breaks. For this purpose use slash (/) between lines.
  • If you need to make longer quotes, use block quotations and begin them on a new line.

Important Rules for Citing Poems in a Right Way

Explain Your Choice

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

Embed Quotes

You can mix quotations into the sentences of your own. Quotes can be at the beginning, ending or in the center of the sentence, they don't need to be added until you get your reader ready for them. The best way 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.

If You Skip the Words

Make in-text citations of the poem in MLA format using ellipses to point the space which included words you decided to skip. There are many examples: “on the... different shores of the Dream" (23). Each time you make tiny adjustments to grammar, type in brackets (example: The speaker states that "Darkling [he listens]" (51).).

How to Cite a Poem: Final Recommendations

  • 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 everything from the poem quotation which sounds insignificant. It is simple to exclude unnecessary parts: indicate such parts with 3-spaced periods (...).
  • Add square brackets 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.
  • Do not overload your text with quotations from the discussed poem - quote the words of others without getting too enthusiastic. Direct citations have to occupy only a small part of your entire essay. Paraphrasing or rewriting some words from the poem is a better way to recall certain episodes.


Now you have learned how to cite a poem and that poem quotation is one of the best methods to prove you've really read the anthology and you understood the author and his aim.

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