How to Cite Poems in MLA and APA Style Formats (With Examples)

Quoting poetry in MLA is essential for your English class, Education, or Sociology courses. Our helpful guide will let you learn how to cite poems in MLA and APA style formats. We shall break down the rules into several sections to help you see each important element. 

How to Quote Poetry Titles in MLA 

When you have a short poem's title, it must be placed in double quotations. There is no need to underline the poem's title in MLA or add italics. For example:  

"When The Last Tree Falls"  

However, when you are dealing with the Iliad or a poem that is book-length, there is no need to add quotes. Add italics instead: 

Divine Comedy 

How to Cite Poetry in MLA  

Let's start with the basic rules:  

  • Add double quotation marks when you cite. 
  • Use capitalization when there is the capitalization in the original poem. 
  • Author's name, title(s), line numbers, or pages must be included. 
  • If some poetry passage ends with a period, it must be avoided because you will already have a period. Still, a question mark must be added if it is originally there. 
  • Your poetry citing must remain within your text.  

For example: 

Boris Pasternak states that "a morning bleak... within a dawn threader has been the solitude of none" (13). 

In "Stranded," Nordhus expresses a passion that is like no other, saying: "I should not dare to stay away / when none will ever see the day, / avoiding love, avoiding hate, I shall be waiting 'till I'm late" (7-9). 

When we are using "...", it means that some words of a poem have been omitted. 

When you are quoting poetry that is four or more lines,  the rules go like this: 

  • It should be cited on a new line with a one-inch margin from the left side. 
  • Each line of the poem must appear exactly the way it has been in your source. 
  • Add double-spacing for each line. 
  • Use quotation marks to set the start and the end of the poem. 
  • Your parenthetical citation must be used after the final line of the punctuation.  

See the example:  

In "Sonnet 18," William Shakespeare shows the pure love where allegories are being used:

Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperatre:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
​And summer's lease hath all too short a date. (1-4) 

When you must quote a lengthy poem that is also a book itself, your title must be italicized with the same example as we have provided in an example above with Shakespeare. The quotation in parenthesis must include a book's name in italics with the lines that have been quoted. 

(Odyssey 12-13)

How to Cite Poetry in MLA For Works Cited Page  

  • A poem in a book: 

Author's Name. "Title." Title of Anthology, edited by before editor's name. Editor's name, Edition., Publisher, Year, pp. Page number(s). 

Smith, John. "The Diamonds." Vagabond Poetry: 18th-century English Poetry, edited by Tim S. Collins and Liam O'Kane, Oxford Press, 2005, pp. 122-125.  

  • A poem that you find online:  

Author's Name. "Poem's Title." Title of the website, Name of some institution associated with the website, date of publication, URL (no http://). 

Hughes, Gary. "Ten Phantoms Deep." Ten Lyrics Archive, Gary Hughes Poetry Archive, tenofficial.com. 

  • A poem with an editor in MLA: 

Author's Last Name, First Name. "Title." Title of Anthology, edited by Editor's First Name and Last Name, edition, volume, Publisher, year of anthology's publishing, page number(s). 

Dermott, Andrew. "Solitude." The Scottish Clan Poetry, edited by Duncan Pulsford, Oxford Press, 2010, p. 34. 

  • When you are dealing with some translation: 

Translator's name, translator. Title of Work. By Author's Name, Publishing Agency, Year. 

Michael Mills, translator. Red Roses Saga. By Kjetil Nordhus, Nordik Poetry Foundation, 2004. 

How to Quote Poetry in APA 

The basic APA poetry citation rules will require adding the following information: 

  • As you cite a poem, your quoted text must implement quotation marks just like for any other source. 
  • Author's last name must be cited along with the year of publication, placed in parenthesis. 
  • If you have a page number available, include it as well.
  • If you include two lines from a poem, a forward slash must be used to show the break. 

For example: 

One of the most powerful examples of Nordic poetry would be "The song of Freya", which includes the famous lines: "Tears are the diamonds of soul / Don't let these diamonds fall upon deaf ears" (Bjarnason, 1889/2006, p. 11). 

How to Quote Three or More Lines of Poetry In APA

Citing poetry that is three or more lines should use a blockquote: 

When you are exploring Shakespeare's poetry, the importance of time and memories is present in Sonnet 34: 

"Why didst thou promise such a beauteous day,
And make me travel forth without my cloak,
To let base clouds o’ertake me in my way,
Hiding thy bravery in their rotten smoke? (Shakespeare, 2009, p. 25) 

How to Add a Poem To Your APA References List 

 It will always depend on how an original poem has been published. For example, if some lengthy poem has been published as a standalone work, a standard book citing format is used. It is also applicable for anthologies.  

  • Poetry in print: 

Last Name, Initials (Year). Title: Subtitle. Publisher. 

Langsey, M.N. (2016). Vargants In Deeper Space: Middle-Ages Poetry Anthology. Phoenix Publishing. 

  • A poem found online: 

Poem's Author Surname, Initial(s). (Year) Title of the poem. Name of the website. URL. 

 McFly, John. (2015, November 6). On top of the network. Modern Hip-hop Poetry Archive. http://www.url.com 

  • How to Cite a Poem In a Chapter or an Edited Source in APA  

Last Name, Initial(s). (Year). Title of chapter. In Editor Name (Ed.), Title of chapter/book (page numbers). Publisher. 

King, M. (2009). My Verona. In L.V. Smith (Ed.), Mediterranean Poetry: From Italy to Turkey (pp. 7-11). Penguin Books. 

  • A translated poem in APA: 

Last Name, Initial(s). (Year). Title. (Initial(s) Last Name, Trans.). (Original work published Year). Publisher or Retrieved from URL. 

LeBron, S (2019). Come Undone. (R. James, Trans.). (Original work published 1932). French Poetry Foundation. 

As you learn how to quote a poem in MLA and APA, you will avoid plagiarism risks and will earn much better grades as you keep your citations accurate and according to academic writing standards! 

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