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Tips on Citing a Poem in MLA Style

Hath thou ever cited a poem before? Citing a poem in MLA 8 format isn’t life or death; it’s simply a matter of knowing the MLA citation style. Not only will your writing be flawless, but your poem quotations will be impeccable too. Now it’s time to learn how to cite a poem in MLA with ease.

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Citing a Poem In-Text

Poems come in all shapes and sizes. They are the size of a novel or as few as two lines. Therefore, it makes sense that citing a poem in the text of an MLA format essay takes on a few different variations.

short poem quotes in MLA example

Pay Attention to Quotes

When quoting poetry, you can quote just a few lines or several, depending on the point being illustrated. In MLA style, your formatting is different depending on how many lines you are quoting.

Short Poem Quotes in MLA

If you use two or three lines from a poem, follow these quick tips.

  • Set off the poem with quotes. (e.g., “Two roads diverged in a yellow wood”)
  • Use a slash (/) for line breaks. (e.g., “Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, / Sorry I could not travel both”)
  • Use a double slash (//) for breaks between stanzas (e.g., “To where it bent in the undergrowth; //
    Then took the other, as just as fair”)

Short Poem Quote Example

“I took the road less traveled by, / And that has made all the difference.” (Frost, lines 19-20)

Long Poem Quotes

When using a whole stanza or even a block of poetry in your MLA paper, different rules apply for citing a poem. Examine these tips for quoting four or more lines of poetry. This is called a block quotation.

  • Zero quotes given. When you are quoting a large block of poetry, forget the quotes.
  • Don’t forget the colon. Your introduction line includes a colon.
  • Indentation is important. To make the poem stand out and look like a block, indent a half-inch.
  • Place a period before the citation.

Look at this example from Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken” here:

MLA block quote for a poem

Lines and Numbers for Citing a Poem in MLA

Now that you’ve got poem quoting down to a science, it’s time to end it perfectly. To complete a poem quote, include the author’s last name and the lines you used in parentheses (e.g., Frost lines 1-5). This goes after the period. For example:

I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference. (Frost lines 16-20)

If you included the author’s name in your introduction, then you include only the lines quoted, just like in this example:

Frost discusses the road less traveled in the lines, “I took the road less traveled by, / And that has made all the difference.” (19-20)

How to Cite a Poem Without Lines

If you have a poem without lines available, MLA doesn’t make you count them manually. Instead, you can use the page numbers the poem is published on.

“Then the window draws full upon / Your mind. There, just beyond / The sway of curtains, men walk.” (Angelou 126)

How to Cite a Poem From a Website

When citing a poem from a website with no page numbers, then only include the name of the poet at the end.

“Now we are here at home, in the little nation / of our marriage, swearing allegiance to the table / we set for lunch or the windchime on the porch,” (Dubrow)

Know the Kind of Poem

When including the title of the poem in text, there are a couple of ways this could go down depending on what type of poem it is.

  • For a regular old poem, you put the title in quotation marks (e.g., “The Road Not Taken”).
  • If your poem is a novel-length, as in an epic poem, things get a bit different. In this case, italicize or underline the title (e.g., Divine Comedy)

Creating the MLA Works Cited Reference

When creating an MLA poem works cited reference, it is all about the style. Your reference for your works cited is going to take a different format if you found the poem online, in a book, or if it’s an epic poem. Look at an example of each.

How to Cite a Poem in a Book – MLA

This is for all published standard format poems.

Format for Citation of a Poem in a Book – MLA

Last, First. “Title of Poem.” Title of the book. Edited by first name last name, Edition if not first, Shortened publisher name, Publication year, Page numbers.

 

Poem in a Book Example 

Duben, Lee. “Marriage Rites.” The Penguin Book of Contemporary Celtic Poetry, edited by Mary Gee and Felix Mahony, Penguin Books, 2019, pp. 160-61.

How to Cite a Web Poem – MLA

Poems you find on the web that might not have a printed version.

Format for Citing a Web Poem in MLA

Last, First. “Title.” Website in Italics, URL. Accessed date (e.g., 29 April 2018).

 

Example of Web Poem

Angelou, Maya. “Men.” Blue Ridge Journal, https://www.blueridgejournal.com/poems/ma1-men.htm. Accessed 19 September 2020.

How to Cite an Epic Poem – MLA

Poems that are a novel in length are treated like a book.

Format for Citing an Epic Poem in MLA

Last, First. Poem title. City of Publication for books before 1900: Publisher, year of publication.

 

Haley, Albert. Beowulf. Branden Publishing Company, 1978.

MLA works cited example poems

How is MLA Different From APA?

APA and MLA formats are different because they are designed for different writing styles. MLA is mostly for humanities subjects, while APA is for social science. Therefore, the way that the citations for the works cited are composed is quite different. However, an in-text citation isn’t that much different. There are still quotes around the poem and an introductory sentence in APA style.

How to Cite a Poem: What a Question

Citing poems in MLA format has a few rules to follow, but once you get the knack for them, it is a piece of cake. Go out and give these tips a try in your MLA style paper.

Related Articles:

FAQ Tips on Citing a Poem in MLA Style

How do you cite a poem in an essay?

To cite a poem in an essay, you include quotation marks around a short quote or three lines or less. You separate the lines using a forward slash (/) between the stanzas. For a block quote, or 4 lines or more, separate the quote from the rest of the text with a 5-inch margin. You lead into the quote with a lead-in sentence. For both citations, you include a parenthetical citation at the end of the quote (Frost lines 1-5).

How do you cite an epic poem in MLA?

To cite an epic poem in MLA format, you follow the citation format for a book. Therefore, you include the author, title, publication year, publisher, and date. An example of an epic poem citation in MLA looks like:
Kovacs, Maureen. The Epic of Gilgamesh. Stanford University Press, 1989.

How do you reference a poem?

To reference a poem in the text, you include the author's name and lines in MLA format. Therefore, you would include a parenthetical citation at the end of the line of poetry in text. To reference a poem in your works cited in MLA, you include a full reference for the poem based on the author, date, publisher, and where it is found. A citation for an online poem can vary from a printed one.

How do you cite lines from a poem?

The way that you cite lines from a poem depends on how many lines you are citing in MLA format. For example, to cite three lines of a poem in MLA, you include those lines with a (/) to separate the stanzas and include a citation with the author and line numbers, if available, at the end. To cite more than three lines of poetry in your paper, you create a block quote.

How do you parenthetically cite a poem?

How you parenthetically cite a poem depends on the writing style you are using. To parenthetically cite a poem in MLA, you include the author's last name and line numbers, if available. To create a parenthetical citation in APA, you include the author's last name and the date of the publication.

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