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How To Cite A Poem

How To Cite A Poem

Poetry analysis is a significant part of literary assignments. Naturally, it means you have to include the actual poem in your paper. This isn’t restricted to analysis papers only. There’s nothing better than quoting a few lines to highlight your points, is there? But there’s a catch. These aren’t your words. So, what’s the most logical conclusion you can draw from that?

You have to cite your sources, of course! You can’t get away with claiming to be the next Shakespeare. You’ll learn more about it in this blog. So, let’s get into it.

How Does the Citation of a Poem Work?

You’ll encounter many situations where you have to cite a poem. It’s pretty simple. The main idea is the same as any other type of citation. You quote a part of the poem, add an in-text citation, and mention the source details in the reference section of the paper. That’s standard procedure, right? Well, there are a few additions you should keep in mind.

How to mention a poem in a text?

Let’s address the basics. How should you mention a poem’s title in your paper? It seems like a simple thing. But many students mess up here. So, this section will make things easier. Just go over the following points.

  • Use double quotations for short ones.
  • Use italics for a book-length poem.

That’s as simple as it can get. If you’re including any section for a short poem, always stick to quotation marks for the titles. The title can be one word or seven. It doesn’t matter. Now, the word 'short' can be subjective. But usually, it can be a text of a few short lines or one that spans almost 3 pages. Let’s cover some below.

  1. “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” – Robert Frost
  2. “Shall I Compare Thee to a Summer’s Day?” – William Shakespeare
  3. “O Captain! My Captain!” – Walt Whitman
  4. “Dreams” – Langston Hughes
  5. “If” – Rudyard Kipling
  6. “Do Not Stand at My Grave and Weep” – Mary Elizabeth Frye

Notice how the length of each poem varies? Now, compare them to the next set of examples:

  1. The Iliad– Homer
  2. The Odyssey– Homer
  3. Omeros– Derek Walcott
  4. Paradise Lost– John Milton
  5. The Divine Comedy– Dante Alighieri
  6. Deep Step Come Shining– C.D. Wright

These poems span books! You can’t compare them to the earlier batch. So, whenever you include these titles in your paper, italicize them. In the next section, you’ll get into more specifics about including textual lines in your academic paper. Scroll down.

Read Also: Expository Essay Topics : A Step-by-Step Guide

How to include multiple lines of a poem in a text?

While there’s no particular rule to follow when citing texts in a work, you need to be careful about poems. Sometimes, you need to include multiple lines. For prose, a line ends with a full stop. But that’s not always the case with poems. So, there is a simple way you can distinguish new lines and paragraphs when quoting a poem:

  • Use a single forward slash (/) to denote a new line.
  • Use double forward slashes (//) to indicate a new paragraph.

Let’s check an example to understand this. Consider the following extract from the poem “My People” by Langston Hughes:

“The night is beautiful, / So the faces of my people. // The stars are beautiful, / So the eyes of my people.”

Notice how full stops don't always denote the end of a line in a poem? Sometimes, a poet uses a comma, a semicolon, or a dash. They might not even include a punctuation mark at all. That’s why you use the forward slashes.

Now that you've covered the basics of poem citation let's move on to the specifics. In the following sections, you'll cover how to cite a poem in the MLA, the APA and the Chicago styles. They're all different. The rules might be challenging to remember. But make sure you note the changes. Try making a comparative analysis for better understanding.

Read Also: What Is Costco Essay And How To Write It?

How to Cite a Poem in the MLA Style?

You’ll start with the MLA style of citation since it is the most common for literature essay. Most Humanities disciplines follow the MLA referencing style. English literature is no exception. So, let’s check the poem citation rules for this style.

Quoting a poem in the text:

The MLA referencing style has a few rules about poem citations. According to these rules, the way you quote your poem in the paper changes. Want to learn more? Then read on.

Case I: Quoting a single line

When quoting a single line of a poem, use quotation marks. You can include it in the same line as the main text.

Case II: Quoting 2-3 lines

You've already covered this in the previous section. Use a single forward slash to denote a line break and double forward slashes to denote a paragraph break.

Case III: Quoting 4+ lines

If you quote four or more than four lines, you must use block quotes. Transition the reader into it with the help of an introductory line. End it with a colon. Then, indent the quoted lines half an inch from the left side of the margin. Since you’re using block quotes, you need not include quotation marks.

In-Text Citations for a Poem in MLA Format:

Whenever you mention a poem in your paper, you need some indicator that helps the reader identify it. For the MLA style, this indicator includes the following:

  • Poet’s surname
  • Line number(s)
  • Page number(s)

You’ll notice that some poems contain line numbers. Include them in your in-text citation so it becomes easier for the reader to locate the section. For the first citation, use the word ‘line’ or ‘lines’. But skip it for the subsequent citations. Check this example:

“Though wise men at their end know dark is right, / … / Do not go gentle into that good night” (Thomas, lines 4-6)

Now, what do you do when line numbers aren't there? Do you manually count them? Absolutely not! You don't have to go through such a hassle. Just check if there is a page number that you can include instead. Here's an example:

“I love thee to the depth and breadth and height” (Browning 42)

If there are no page or line numbers, the poet’s surname should be enough.

“My name is Ozymandias, king of kings: / Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!” (Shelley)

That’s the gist of in-text citations. Now, you should focus on the detailed reference.

Referencing format for poems in MLA Format:

1. Poem taken from a book

Standard format:

Poet’s surname, first name. “Title of the poem.” Title of the book, Publisher name, Year of publication, Page number(s).

Example:

Kilmer, Joyce. “Trees.” Getting to Know Joyce, Oxford, 2018, 123

2. Poem taken from an anthology

Standard format:

Poet’s surname, first name. “Title of the poem.” Title of the anthology, edited by Editor’s name, Edition, Publisher name, Year of publication, Page number(s).

Example:

Frost, Robert. “Fire and Ice.” A Short Collection of Frost’s Best Works, edited by Samuel E. Henry and Jonathan Gardner, 2nd ed., Collins, 2019, 12.

3. Poem taken from an online source

Standard format:

Poet’s surname, first name. “Title of the poem.” Original publication year. Title of the website, URL. Accessed Day Month Year.

Example:

Hunter, Dorothy. “A Very Short Song.” 1926. PoemHunter, https://www.poemhunter.com/poem/a-very-short-song/. Accessed 30 Aug 2023.

Congrats! You've reached the end of the MLA section of this blog. Do you think you can cite poems easily in this format? Keep revising the rules, and you shouldn't have any trouble with them. Now, move on to the next formatting style.

How to Cite a Poem in the APA Style?

Citing a poem in the APA style has many similarities with the MLA style. Let’s tackle them one by one. First, you’ll go over the quoting rules. Keep the following pointers in mind:

  • Use block quotes to cite a poem of more than 40 words or three lines or more.
  • Always include quotes within quotation marks except when using block quotes.

The rest of the rules remain the same. So you need not worry too much. If you have any doubts, feel free to contact an academic scholar from AllEssaywriter.com to help you out.

In-text referencing for APA style of citation:

Now, in-text referencing is where you'll start noticing more differences. But the essential idea remains the name. In the MLA style, you had to mention the poet's surname and line or page number. But for the APA, you should include the following –

  • Poet’s surname
  • Publication year
  • Page number(s)

Do you notice the differences already? Unlike in the previous style, you’ll have to include the publication year. Now, there’s a common question that students have. Should you include the original publication year of the poem or the publication of the print or online medium? Usually, it’s the second option. Let’s check an example. 

“Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day? / Thou art more lovely and more temperate” (Shakespeare, 2009, p. 12).

Clearly, Shakespeare didn't publish this poem in 2009. So, it’s apparent that the publication year is supposed to be that of the source where the poem has been published. Now, you’ve seen the parenthetical style of this citation. Let’s check the narrative version.

In "Shall I Compare Thee to a Summer's Day," Shakespeare (2009) initially wonders if his friend's beauty is comparable to a summer's day but eventually agrees that "thou art more lovely and temperate" (12).

Note the following:

  • The publication year comes in parentheses after the poet’s name.
  • The page number is included in parentheses after the quote.

That’s all you should know about in-text citations. But there’s more left. Like the MLA style, you need to go through the reference list at the end of your paper. So, go over the following referencing formats.

Referencing format for poems in APA Format:

1. Poems in a book

Standard format:

Poet’s surname, initial(s). (Year). Title of the book (pp. xx-xx). Location: Publisher.

Example:

Frost, R. (2019). Selected Poems of Robert Frost (p. 15). UK: Phoenix Publishing.

2. Translated poem

Standard format:

Poet’s surname, initial(s). (Year). Title of the poem. (Translator’s initial, surname, Trans.). (Original work published YEAR). Publisher name or Retrieved from URL. 

Example:

Hugo, V. (2009). Tomorrow, at Dawn. (R. Rivers, Trans.). (Original work published 1856). Oxford Publications.

3. A poem from a website

Standard format:

Poet’s surname, initial(s). (Year). Title of the poem. Website name. URL of the website.

Example:

Neruda, P. (2004). If You Forget Me. Poets of the Generation. https://www.poets ofthegeneration.com/Neruda

4. A poem from an edited chapter

Standard format:

Poet’s surname, initial(s). (Year). Title of the poem. In Editor’s name (Ed.), Title of the chapter/book (page numbers). Publisher.

Example:

Walcott, D. (2019). Love After Love. In J.L. Smith (Ed.), Top Poems of the Ages (pp. 88-89). Penguin.

You’ve mastered the APA style! Congratulations. Now, you have to remember to cite your poems properly. The APA style always includes the publication year. So, make sure you know the correct date. Double-check with the source. As long as you remain vigilant, you can avoid citation errors easily.

In conclusion,

Citing a poem is essential when writing a paper. You can’t skip it if you want to maintain your academic integrity. The MLA and the APA styles of references are the most popular for citing poems. That’s why this blog covers these two styles extensively. The in-text citations for both might not be too different. But the reference list formatting varies a lot. So, go through this article carefully. If you have any queries, you can get in touch with an expert from AllEssaywriter.com for guidance.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Q.1. Do I need to cite a poem in my paper?

Yes, you should always cite a poem in your paper. It is someone else's work. If you're including it in your paper to prove a point or emphasize something, then you need to give credit. Citations help you maintain academic integrity. You get to avoid plagiarism, too! Remember that the rules differ for different citation styles.

Q.2. Which is the best referencing style to follow for poem citation?

There's no particular referencing style that is "best" for poem citation. Usually, you'd stick to the MLA style. That's because it's the most commonly used referencing format for humanities disciplines. But you can cite poems in the APA or the Chicago style as well. However, the formatting rules vary for all. So, make sure you check them beforehand.

Q.3. What should I include as an in-text reference when citing poems?

Usually, once you cite a poem in your paper, you should include the poet's name and page number. Some citation styles recommend adding the publication year as well. If you've already mentioned the poet's name in the text, stick to the page number only. This is the narrative style of in-text citation.

Q.4. How do you quote a poem in an essay?

When quoting a poem in an essay, check the number of lines you need to quote. If it is three or less, you can include it naturally in your text. But if it’s more, use block quotes. The in-text citation usually includes the poet’s surname and line number. This depends on the referencing style.

Q.5. What formatting guidelines should I follow when citing poems?

The formatting guidelines for citing poems depend on the referencing style you opt for. However, there are some common points. Let’s check them out.

  • Use double quotation marks when quoting poems.
  • Maintain the same capitalization as the original text.
  • Avoid ending with a period in the poem if your sentence ends right after.
  • Italicize the poem title if it is lengthy; use double quotes otherwise.

Q.6. Do I need to cite a poem that I found online?

Yes, you should always cite a poem that you’ve found online. Citations don’t depend on the type of source medium. It can be a printed book. It can also be a website. As long as you’re taking someone else’s words and inserting them into your essay writing, you need to cite the source. Double-check the citation format to avoid mistakes. 

Q.7. How can I denote multiple poem lines when quoting?

If you’re denoting multiple poem lines, you can use a slash (/) to denote the next line. Use double slash (//) to denote the next paragraph. Usually, you won't need to do this if you're using block quotes. But there are rules for that. Usually, you can't use block quotations for three or fewer lines. Here's an example:

“Your skin like dawn / Mine like musk // One paints the beginning / of a certain end.”

Q.8. What should I do if I want to quote a small portion of a larger poem?

Sometimes, a poem is too long to quote. You might want to include some parts at the beginning and the end. But you want to omit a portion in the middle. In that case, you can use ellipses (…) to denote that. Here's an example:

“Hold fast to dreams…That cannot fly.”

This extract has been taken from Langston Hughes’ “Dreams.” Here, two lines in between have been omitted.

Q.9. Is there a tool that can help me cite poems?

You can find many citation generators that can help you cite poems. But make sure you choose the right one. Some referencing tools provide incorrect solutions. If push comes to shove, you can always review sample papers from AllEssaywriter.com. They’ll give you a better idea of poem citations. The best option would be to hire an expert online.

Q.10. Can I find professional help to guide me with poem citations?

If you’re not confident about citing poems, you can always get professional help. Just search for an online academic service provider. For example, AllEssaywriter.com is a good choice. This website has some of the best writers in the USA who are familiar with all citation styles. They can resolve your problems within minutes.

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Bella Phillips

Bella Phillips As a passionate blogger for Essay Help USA by #1 Writing Expert 50% Off.I am currently employed at a leading Business Law firm in White Plains. I am associated with Allessaywriter.com for several years and helping the Law students with their essays.

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