This is the guest post by Elizabeth Price.

Preparing a good academic paper is not an easy task. Analysis of the essay topic, generating creative ideas and structuring an essay require substantial academic writing skills and efforts. Still, even the most hard-working and experienced professionals at times stagnate when it comes to quoting a direct speech or a poem. 

To quote means to place the exact words of another author in the text to complement vividly what you are writing about. There are many resources where you can swiftly look up how to cite a poem in MLA and other main styles. In this article, we’ll go into detail about avoiding plagiarism when citing a poem.

The following top tips on how to cite a poem in academic papers will help you master the principles of academic integrity and be successful in the academic area.

Learn How to Cite in General

Firstly, you should learn source citation rules. For example, when preparing a diploma thesis at a particular university, it is worth checking whether there is a specific template for quotes and referencing. Referring to them is the easiest way to avoid mistakes. 

Most often, a correctly designed footnote or a reference list entry will contain the following:

  • the name of the author (authors) of the cited publication or the name of its editor (editors)
  • the title;
  • the place of publication;
  • the year of publication. 

If you provide a direct quotation, an exact page where the quoted piece can be found should also be mentioned. In the case of Internet sources, you should also provide the access date and the exact link.

Citing a Poem: MLA Formating

The rules for citing a poem in the MLA formatting style are determined by the length of your citation. So, it depends a lot on whether you choose a short (not more than three lines) or long (longer than three lines) excerpt.

To present short poem quotes in your essay:

  • write lines of the poem between your sentences;
  • quotation marks, of course, should be present;
  • you should start each line with a capital letter;
  • if you want to mark line breaks you should use a slash or even a double slash;
  • all questions and exclamation marks from the poem should be within quotation marks.

For example, 

In “Remembrance,” Vladimir Nabokov wrote, “Shall breathe to you a half-forgotten name / Remembrance pale to quiver in your heart / Like moonlit foam upon a windy shore.”

Citing Longer Poems’ Excerpts 

Most of the rules for long quotes are diametrically opposite to short variants. Here are the main highlights if you are dealing with poem excerpts that are more than three lines long:

  • a half-inch indent from the left margin is obligatory for every new line;
  • you don’t need to use slashes; you can just skip them;
  • take only original form and punctuation from the author’s style;
  • more space inside quoting (double space);
  • capital letter for each new line.

For example, 

Allen Ginsberg wrote:

Be careful,

You are not in wonderland

I have heard the strange madness

Long growing in your soul

But you are fortunate

In your ignorance

In your isolation

What About Citing the Title of the Poem?

You should clearly show the poet’s last name in your text. In case you cite a few poems of one author, you need to write the titles of each. 

If you see that a poem was published initially with numbering lines in the margin, you should include the number as well. Use words: “line,” or “lines,” and number.

Have a look at these examples: 

In-text citation

“Three ways in the forest were in snow from the wonderland / I took the one less traveled by, / And that has made all the difference we see and can feel.” (Thaw, lines 22-31 )

The Works Cited list entry:

Brooks, Gwendolyn. “A street in Bronzeville.” Gwendolyn Brooks: Selected Poems, edited by Mark Frei, Massachusetts press, 1999, pp. 44-48.

APA Formatting

Another popular formatting style is APA (stands for American Psychological Association).

One can easily find APA rules here or in all other guidelines from universities. Here are the main features:

  • the excerpt of a poem should be up to forty words;
  • block citations for every quote that is longer than 40 words;
  • block citation at the beginning of every new line;
  • double-space formats;
  • 1.3 cm from the left margin.


Gwendolyn Brooks, in his poem “Where the Trees Meet on the Freeway”, wrote, “The woods are angst, angry, and deep inside, / But I have promises to feel, / Few miles to pass before I sleep, / And miles to pass before I sleep.”

Final Words

Hopefully, this article will be helpful for students in different fields. Maybe, one day you will be the one to set up easier rules for academic papers… Good luck!

About the Author: Nataly
Hi, I am Nataly and love engaging, fit for purpose, and edited to perfection writing. Feel free to reach out to work with me, suggest topic ideas, or give feedback on Make a Stand - the project I passionately grow for more than 3 years now.
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