How to Cite a Poem

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Updated Apr 29, 2021
How to Cite a Poem

Even though citing a poem is not much different from citing any other type of work, you need to equip yourself with a few basics to get achieve precision. Here,s the list of a few things that you must know before you start: 

Formatting style (e.g. MLA, APA, or any other); 

Type of source that the poem belongs to; 

Number of authors (usually, it's single when it comes to poetry); 

Whether it's going to be a quote or an idea. 

Citing a Poem in MLA

Modern Language Association or MLA in short is one of the most frequently used formatting conventions for literature students. This section will cover all the aspects relevant to know about citing a poem in MLA. 

Basic Format

In general, the poet's last name is all you have to cite, be it a usual parenthetical citation or a narrative one. If you have page numbers, add it next to your citation without having to insert a comma (unlike APA) in between. So, a typical in-text citation will look like "(Shakespeare)" or "(Frost 25)". 

Citing a Short Quote

Any quote that doesn't take up more than 2-3 lines is a 'short quote'. Remember, you need to use quotation marks ("") to cite any such quote. Use a forward slash to project the line breaks in the poem. 

Example:

"I was angry with my friend/I told my wrath, my wrath did end" (Blake)

Citing a Long Quote

In MLA formatting, any quotation that exceeds the barricade of 3 lines would be a long quote or a block-quote. Importantly, If you need to quote four or more lines of poetry, don't use quotation marks. Read the following formatting guidelines to get a better understanding.

Use a colon (:) to end your sentence that introduces your quote. Then, add one-line spacing before you begin the quote. Make sure that you give a one-inch indent from the left margin and double-space your entire quote to emphasize the difference from the main text. Keep the original format of the text as much as possible. Do not include any forward slashes. Give your citation within parenthesis after the closing punctuation of the quote. Do not include any punctuation after the parenthesis closes. Here's how to get it right: 

Example:

The poem elaborates upon the dilemma an individual faces when making his life's choices.

The first line of the stanza

The second line of the stanza

The third line of the stanza

The fourth line of the stanza

The fifth line of the stanza (Poet 1-5)

Citing a Poem from Different Resources

Even though your in-text citation barely varies (except citations with or without page numbers) with sources, knowing it is essential when it comes to work-cited entry - yes, where you have to unfold everything from the poet's name to the title of your source. 

Online Source

You may cite a poem available through an online source as follows: 

Basic Format

Poet's Last name,  First name. "Title of the Poem." Year of Publication. Title of the webpage, Name of the  Website Publisher, www.xyz.com. Accessed numerical date month in words. Numerical year. 

Example:

Blake, Wiliam. “A Poison Tree” 1794. Poetry Foundation, www.poetryfoundation.org. Accessed 18th Feb 2021. 

Book

This section talks about the basic format regarding the citation of a poem from a book followed by an example.

Basic Format:

Poet's last name, First name. "Title of the Poem." Title of the Book, Publishing Company, Year of Publication, Page number/s.

Example:

Donne, John. “The Sun Rising". John Donne's Poems. CSC Press, 1920, p. 41.

Anthology

To cite a poem taken from an anthology, follow the given format

Poet’s Last Name, First Name. “Title of the Poem.” Title of Anthology, edited by Editor’s First and Last Name, Publisher, Year of anthology publication, page number, or page range.

Example:

Frost, Robert. “Mending Wall.” The New Poetry An Anthology, edited by Harriet Monroe, The Macmillan Company, 1917, p 404.

Citing a Poem in APA

American Psychological Association is one of the most popular formatting styles used for writing papers in humanities and social sciences, as well as other business-related assignments or research works. Here are the guidelines you must follow when citing a poem in APA style: 

Citing a Short Quote

In APA manuals, any direct quote that consists of forty words or less is considered a short quote. You must use quotation marks for any short quote. Besides, you need not begin a short quote from a fresh line. You can continue the quote as part of the sentence only differentiated by inverted commas and forward slashes. 

Example:

Frost addresses the concept of maintaining limits in personal relationships in his poem 'Mending Wall' “And on a day we meet to walk the line/ And set the wall between us once again/We keep the wall between us as we go.”

Citing a Long Quote

Any quote that extends the limit of 40 words is thought to be a long quote. When writing a long quote, use the in-text citation method. The author's last name and the year of publication must appear in the text. For instance, (Frost, 1917). Make sure a reference list appears towards the end of the paper.

Here are a few points to consider when writing a long quote:

  • Begin with a new line;
  • Use block citation; 
  • Create a half-inch indent from your left margin;
  • Maintain double-spacing throughout the quote;
  • Don't use quotation marks in block citation.

The example provided earlier would be true for this section except that in APA, word count is the measure of a quote's length while in APA, while the number of lines does the same in MLA. 

Citation in the References Section

Since quotations are taken from various resources, it is important to know the format for each of them. Here is a simple formatting guideline to follow when citing a poem in the references section. 

Book

If you have taken the quote from a book, follow the given format to cite it.

Basic Format:

Poet’s Last Name, First Initial. (Year). Poem title. Initial of the Editor's name. Editor's last name (Ed.), Book title (pp. xx-xx). Location: Publisher.

Example:

Donne, J. (2019). "The Flea". John Donne's Poems. A. UK. CRS Press. 

Online Resource

If the quote you wish to include is taken from a website, give your citation in the following manner.

Basic Format

Poet’s Last Name, First Initial. (Year, Month Day). Poem title. Retrieved from http://WebAddress.

Example:

Blake, W. (1794). A Poison Tree. Poetry Foundation. www.poetryfoundation.org. Accessed 18th Feb 2021.

Anthology

If your poem has been extracted from an anthology, follow the given pattern.

Author's last name, Author's first name (Year of publication). Title of the poem. In Editor's first and last name (Eds.), Title of book (pp. page #). Location: Publisher.

Example:

Frost, Robert (1917). Mending Wall. Harriet Monroe (Ed.), The New Poetry an Anthology (p. 404). New York: The Macmillan Company.

It is up to you to choose your writing style and follow the detailed guidelines for perfect citations. 

Tasha Kolesnikova
Content Team Member

I write articles and do SEO-optimisation here at Studybay. I'm obsessed with creating content both people and Google love, surfing in Portugal, and dancing Jazz-funk.