When the Question Is: How to Cite a Poem Properly?


If there is a necessity to insert a quotation in the text of a composing paper, a student has to do it properly because it needs special knowledge. There are different formatting styles available. And the simplest of them is MLA. However, do not think you won’t need to do anything all to do the job. If you want to do things properly and add citations correctly, learn some of the peculiarities of this type of formatting. The article below will teach you to cite poetry correctly. 

You may ask why you need to put poems citation in the text at all. Being a student means that you will be assigned a lot of written work. being a student of English or Literature, or Art means you will need to do lots of those. They may include Descriptive, Reflective, Argumentative types of essays, etc. With such a load of tasks, you will need to look for methods of doing your home task really fast. 


Tips for Successful Citing

Normally, you will be using citations from the original text if you want to convey the author’s idea about a certain topic. If you don’t do that, they would consider it plagiarism. If you don’t insert citation words by work but paraphrase it you don’t need to use quotation marks. However, in this case, you still need to add an in-text citation when you finish the idea. You should also remember placing the title of the poem in the quotation marks. There is no need to underline them. If you remove one or several lines of the poem in your text, remember to insert ellipses. 


MLA Formatting Style – What Is It Like?

When citing poems in written works in the field of Humanities or Art, MLA formatting style if the most frequently used one. When you begin working with this style, you need to take into account a lot of rules that help you do proper citation. In another case, the text will contain plagiarism. 


Things to Know about Using Poem Quotes

Let’s first see what citing means. Say, you are working on a project and you found some author’s idea that you want to use in your work. If you want to use it in the text without changes, word by word, just like its author said – it means you cite it. If you use MLA style, you will be inserting quotations of different lengths. When the poem quotation contains up to 3 lines, it is called a short one. 


When you say citing you mean presenting the author’s words just as they go in the original source. If you use MLA style, you have options of using quotes. Choosing the right option, you need to consider the length of the quotation. Short poetry citations are usually no longer than 3 lines (4 lines for prose). 


An example is taken from The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien:

From the ashes, a fire shall be woken,

Light from the shadows shall spring;

Renewed shall be blade that was broken…


If the quote you use is longer than 4 lines, it is considered a long one. Also, there are situations when you will want to remove some words from the direct in-text quotation because they do not have any meaning for your project. In this case, you need to identify the important information in the citation fast and use it in the proper form in your text. 


How to Cite Correctly?

When you start citing, you should do it properly. The title of the quote comes first. For this purpose, you may use italics or quotation marks instead. However, the title length will be a decisive factor. Short titles are conveyed the following way:

“Be Proud of Who You Are”;

“Our Brothers”;


If you have a longer title of the poem, you should type it in italics. Below are some examples:

Tape for the Turn of the Year;

The Sea and the Mirror;


When you use quotes from poetry, no matter if it is few words or a paragraph, remember to use quotation marks in the beginning and end. For citing exactly the phrase of the author they apply parentheses. Punctuation marks are also of great importance. You may be using a period of coma after the parenthesis. Do not forget to make the number of the citation correspond to the number of the relevant line. Let’s check the following example:


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


If you plan to use quote lines following each other, put a virgule (/). It will help you define where you can “divide” the lines you chose to use. The author’s name is put in the parenthesis divided with a hyphen.


If there is a need to use a quotation consisting of more than 4 consecutive lines, put a “long quotation”; or else called blockquote. Begin with a signal phrase in the intro of your citation; indent it twice; add double space. The punctuation marks should be used the way they are in the original text.


Other elements of poetry quotations are put as if you quote prose. 


And remember, no matter what type of quotes you use, you should always do the proofreading to check if everything is used correctly.


How to Quote Short Poems

Before you proceed to compose your essay, you should always learn the basic concepts of citing poetry in this format. There are tons of information available on the topic online and inland libraries. It is also essential to read the poetry from which you take the quotation. This will let you realize which part of it is most suitable for your project. 


Before using the quotation define whether it is long or short. Short ones contain no more than 3 lines. 

 What you need to remember to cite properly

  • If you have a direct quote from the source you should use quotation marks 
  • Indicate author’s name, the full title of the piece of art, page/line number
  • In parenthetical quotation do not forget about proper punctuation
  • Question or exclamation marks contained in the quote should be located you should place them inside the quotation marks
  • If it is you who adds these marks, locate them outside
  • In this format do not forget to give full source reference in the Bibliography

Examples below will help you understand the above theory better: 

  1. 1. 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 oppression. 
  2. 2. As he mentioned, “Till the leaves went whirling with him / Till the dust and wind together / Swept in eddies round about him” (10-12).

If the source text has line numbers you should also put them. The right place to put them – in parentheses, just when quotation marks the end, before the final punctuation. 


How to Quote Long Poems

If there is a longer piece of poem you want to quote, you should do the following: 

  • Insert a blockquote
  • Do not use quotation marks
  • The quote should begin with a new line
  • The first word in each paragraph is indented only if there are several paragraphs
  • Double-space is used
  • The parenthetical citation should go right after the final punctuation.

Samples of long quotes

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).


Poem-Citing in APA format

In Social sciences, they use APA format for citing. It has its own peculiarities. Here are the rules to consider when quoting in APA: 

  • Quotation marks are applied when citing short poems (no longer than 40 words). You can put the quote in the same line as your sentence in an argumentative essay. No need to being it with the new line.
  • For quotation longer than 1 line apply line breaks. Slash between lines is used for that.

Longer quotes should begin with new lines and contain block quotations.


Useful tips for Correct Citing


Explain your choice

You must always remember to provide feedback or comments on your choice of the quotation. You should explain why exactly this specific piece of the original text was chosen and how it helps reveal your essay idea. 


Embed Quotations

There is no specific place to pout quotations. You can choose any position which is proper by your opinion- beginning, end or middle of the sentence. 


Skip unimportant words

If you decide to skip some words of phrases from the quote, you should use ellipses in the place where such words or phrases were missed. 

“On the… different shores of the Dream” (23). 

If you change grammar in the quotation you should type in brackets: The speaker states that “Darkling [he listens]” (51).).


What else to remember

  • If, for the purpose of the sentence in your essay, you need to make any omissions, use a triple period in such a place. 
  • If there are things you think not important for your purposes, you can skip them. Instead, place the triple period. (…).
  • Square brackets are used when you plan to insert your own interpretation
  • Even if you have found tons of perfect quotations for your essay, it does not mean you should use them all. Your essay should not be overloaded with citations. If you still want to add some of them in your essay, you can use paraphrasing or rewriting.


We hope this guide helped you understand how to use different types of citations in different formats. However, if you still feel puzzled about putting quotations in the text, you can always turn for professional help online. 


We can do all types of writing and citing. You will receive a winning essay with a properly used and formatted quotation. 


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