How to Cite a Poem in MLA and APA Format?

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Have you ever worked on an academic paper that required you to cite a poem or an author’s statement? In case you haven’t, it is possible that you may have to work on citations in the course of your education. It can be tough to know how to properly reference a poem since poems are a unique type of resource that can be found online, in a book, or in an anthology.

In addition, not knowing how to cite a poem can adversely affect your write-up and may lead to plagiarism issues. Therefore, writing a structured paper is necessary to learn how to cite poetry in various formats.

This guide will discuss when to use poem quotes and how to use citations in MLA and APA format.

When Should You Cite A Poem?

Poem quotes are usually used when writing an essay about a poet or a poem. Quotes from poetry are frequently utilized by liberal arts, literature, and language students. Therefore, It isn’t easy to conceive of writing an essay about a poet without including any of his works or defining a poetry movement without citing instances. 

Poem lines can also be found in descriptive, argumentative, reflective, and comparison and contrast essays. Furthermore, you may use poem citations in your work even if you are not a humanities student in case the topic demands it.

While there are no rules regarding where you may quote a poem, there are several regarding how you should do so in various formatting styles.

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Cite A Poem In MLA Format

Modern Language Association, or simply MLA, is one of the most popular and accessible formatting styles. However, remember that even though it may seem like the most uncomplicated style to use, learning and practicing the rules will take some time.

When citing a poem as per the MLA style, the length of the citation plays an important role. A quote with up to three lines is considered short, while a quote of more than three lines is considered long.

A single line from a poem (or part of a line) should be cited in quotation marks as you would any other quote. However, multiple-line quotations require special formatting.

You can also learn more on “how to cite a research paper ” from our CheapestEssay articles.

Short Quote Citation

Here are the essential points on how to cite short quotes:

  • A short quote does not need to start on a new line; you can insert it anywhere within the text.
  • However, quotation marks must be inserted around the quote.
  • Put question marks and exclamation points inside quotation marks if they are part of the poem; leave them outside if they are part of your text.
  • You can use a slash to mark a line break or a double slash to mark a stanza break; place a space before and after the slash.
  • Each line of the poem should start with a capital letter both at the beginning and after the slash marks.

Example 1: 

In “The Road Not Taken,” Robert Frost wrote, “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I— / I took the one less traveled by, / And that has made all the difference.”

Example 2:

Mahon writes – “Deep in the grounds of a burnt-out hotel, / Among the bathtubs and the washbasins / A thousand mushrooms crowd to a keyhole.”

Example 3: Poetry quotation with a stanza break

A haunting image is presented next: “They lift frail heads in gravity, and good faith. // They are begging us, you see, in their wordless way, / To do something, to speak on their behalf” (Mahon).

Long Quote Citation

  • When writing a long quotation, several guidelines are exactly the reverse of how you would write a short quote – therefore, you must be very careful not to mix them up.
  • Begin your quote with a new line and a half-inch indent from the left margin.
  • Please include it in a block quote. Furthermore, incorporate line breaks as they appear in the original quote.
  • Let the original formatting and punctuation remain as it is as part of the author’s style.
  • Within the quote, use double-space spacing.
  • Quotation marks or slashes are not required; simply leave them out.

Example 1:

Maya Angelou wrote:

Just like moons and suns,

With the certainty of tides,

Just like hopes springing high,

Still, I’ll rise.

Example 2:

Walt Whitman wrote:

Rise after rising bow the phantoms behind me,

Afar down I see the huge first Nothing, I know I was even there,

I waited unseen and always, and slept through the lethargic mist,

And took my time, and took no hurt from the fetid carbon.

Citing The Title Of A Poem

Here are the fundamental points on how to cite the title of the poem:

  • The poet’s last name should be explicitly mentioned irrespective of the quote’s length.
  • Whenever you mention more than one poem by the same author, you should also include the title of the poem.

You can cite the title in two ways: before the quotation in the main text or at the end of the lines (conclusion) in a parenthetical citation. If you mentioned the name and title before the quote but aren’t sure if the reader will notice, you can repeat it in a parenthetical citation – it won’t be deemed a mistake.

Along with the poet’s last name and title of the poem, a parenthetical citation should include the line or page number. Here are some guidelines for parenthetical citations:

In case a poem was published with line numbers in the margin, put the line number. In the opening quotation of your work, use the word “line” or “lines.” Only use numbers in the following quotations from the same sources as before.


“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I— / I took the one less traveled by, / And that has made all the difference.” (Frost, lines 18-20)

In the absence of line numbers in the margin, add the page number within the parenthetical citation after the poet’s last name instead. There should be no comma between the poet’s name and the number of the page.


“Your head so much concerned with outer, / Mine with inner, weather.” (Frost 126)

In case you have found the poetry on a website or the page numbers are unavailable for other reasons, do not provide any numbers. Only the poet’s last name and the title of the poem will be sufficient (if required, as mentioned above).


“A little through the lips and throat. / The aim was a song—the wind could see.” (Mary Oliver)

In case there are no lines or page numbers, don’t add an in-text citation after the quote. This is if you have stated the poet’s last name and title before the citation (if required, as mentioned above).

If the poet’s last name and the poem’s title are included before the citation (as mentioned above), and there are no lines or page numbers, don’t add an in-text citation after the quote.


Here is how Pablo Neruda described this feeling, “I love you as certain dark things are to be loved, / in secret, between the shadow and the soul.”

There are two ways to cite the title of the poem inside your text (not in a parenthetical citation), depending on its length. For short titles, you should put quotation marks around them.


“Song of Myself”

Cite long poem titles in italics.


Because I could not Stop for Death.

Remember to include a complete reference for each source on the Works Cited page at your essay’s end (conclusion). If the poetry was taken from a book, the citation should be formatted as follows: 

Last name, First name of the poet. “Poem Title.” The Book’s Title: Subtitle (if applicable), edited by the Editor’s First Name and Last name, Edition (if stated and not first), Publisher’s Name (frequently abbreviated), Year of Publication, pp. Xx-xx

If the poem citation was derived from a website, it should be formatted as follows: Last name, first name of the poet. “Poem Title.” The Book’s Title: Subtitle (if applicable), Edition (if given and is not first), Name of the Publisher (often shortened), Year of publication, Website Title, and URL. Accessed Access Date.

Cite A Poem In APA Format

American Psychological Association, or simply APA, is another popular formatting style used by students – especially in social studies. Here are some primary rules that you must know to cite a poem in APA format:

  • Quotation marks must surround short quotes of up to 40 words.
  • A short quote does not have to begin on a new line.
  • A slash should be used to indicate line breaks in short quotes.
  • Block citations should be used for quotes that are more than 40 words long (long quotes).
  • A block citation must begin on a new line.
  • For block citations, do not use quotation marks.
  • It would be best if you indented block quotations – 1.3 cm from the left margin and formatted them in double space.

Example: Short poem quote

In his poem Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening, Robert Frost wrote: “The woods are lovely, dark, and deep, / But I have promises to keep, / And miles to go before I sleep, / And miles to go before I sleep.”

Example: Long poem quote

Here is how Robert Frost describes the end of the world: 

Some say the world will end in fire,

Some say in ice.

From what I’ve tasted of desire

I hold with those who favor fire.

But if it had to perish twice,

I think I know enough about hate

To say that for destruction ice

Is also great

That would suffice.

If you use a quote from a book, include a detailed citation to the source on the Works Cited page (APA style) using the following template: Last name, and first initial of the poet. (Year). Title of the poem. Initial in Editor. Last name (Ed. ), the title of the book (pp. xx-xx). Location: Publisher.

If a quotation was derived from a website, use the following template: Last name, and first initial of the poet. (Year, Month, and Day) Title of the poem. Fetched from http://WebAddress.

Additional Tips On How To Cite A Poem

Here are some pointers on how to correctly structure poem quotations. Regardless of the formatting style, you select, they will be valuable whether you are a novice or an advanced user of poem citations.

  • Read the entire poem to ensure you accurately grasp the reference and the author’s message. Then, choose which lines will be utilized as a quote in your work.
  • Please write a number of sentences on why you chose the lines from your poem, what their message is, and how they relate to your essay topic.
  • Use citations sparingly in your writing. You can also paraphrase instead of quoting to convey other people’s ideas. Furthermore, it is your own effort, and you should not rely on the words of others.
  • There’s no need to cite the entire poem if you only require a few lines at the beginning and end. Remove unnecessary middle lines (use ellipses to indicate that you will skip words) or insert two quotations that relate to your text between them.
  • Use embedded quotations. These are quotes that are included in your statement. You can insert it at your statement’s beginning, middle, or end. The goal is to make it a natural part of your writing. As an example, Robert Frost once said, “I hold with those who favor fire.”
  • When citing a specific source (such as a journal or a website), please read the guidelines for citing it in MLA or another format.
  • Proofread your referenced quotes for suitable language and proper formatting in conjunction with the final evaluation of your article.


Poem citations are required for a literature or language essay. As discussed in the article, there are several formats in which one can cite a poem. As with any ability, practice helps us understand how citations are formatted. You can refer to the basic guidelines and some of the most significant recommendations on poem citations given in this guide to help you.

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