How to Cite a Poem in MLA and APA Styles

How to Cite a Poem in MLA and APA Styles

How to Cite a Poem - APA, and MLA in Text Citation

College students get many specific assignments, depending on their major. When it comes to written assignments in Literature, Arts, or English classes, young people may start asking themselves questions like, "How to cite a poem?" since they have to utilize specific quotations to back up arguments and eliminate plagiarism. At this stage, many things will depend on the writing style they use. Different referencing styles are applied for various specialties, so if your professor doesn't ask you to utilize a specific format, it is up to you to decide what style will be more appropriate. We'll consider this question from different perspectives to sort things out.

When Citing Poems Is Required? 

Many young people neglect to reference a poem believing it is a trifle not worth attention. Such an attitude often results in unpleasant consequences when they are blamed for plagiarism. However, when you decide to 'borrow' someone's thoughts, it doesn't matter whether it is about poetry or prose since you still have to mention the source. Thus, if your professor has assigned you with descriptive or reflective essay writing, or one that requires comparison or critical thinking, you should know how to cite lines from a poem or a book. It is a crucial thing that will affect your grades and academic performance in general. Hence, there are a few reasons why you should sharpen your knowledge in quoting:

  • a properly formatted and cited paper can count on getting additional scores since teachers appreciate students who have sound knowledge in quoting poetry in an essay;
  • MLA and APA citation styles require different approaches, so you should know the peculiarities of each of them to follow the required formatting rules;
  • utilizing the wrong format may result in lower grades. 

How to Cite a Poem in MLA

Poems can serve as a common source of information in academic papers, but you should pay attention that their structures often demand exceptional in-text citations. If you utilize MLA style, you should get familiar with its rules to provide proper citations since it is one of the most widespread essay formats. You can cite poems directly or indirectly in this case. If you borrow a part of a text, in MLA poem citation you should necessarily use quotation marks, while paraphrasing requires only proper citation. 

In-Text Citation

If you compare the MLA format citation with citing a poem APA, for example, you will see how unique it is. If you want to do everything right, you should follow three main rules:

  1. An in-text citation is utilized when a piece of poetry writing has an author and line numbers. The latter allows you to refer to a specific line. It is especially useful when you perform a poetry analysis.
  2. It is crucial to cite a poem using the poet's name only. 
  3. You should provide a section identifier and a line number divided by a period if it is about a line number that has sections. 
  4. If you resort to a short quotation consisting of more than one line, you should specify the first and third lines quoted. A short quotation cannot exceed the length of three lines, and you should exclude the second line when citing. You should utilize a dash to indicate the waiver. For example, you can specify that as Covey 15-17

When it comes to long quotations that occupy more than three lines, you should apply the same in-text citation formatting. Nonetheless, bear in mind that this case requires two different line numbers that you should divide with a comma. Furthermore, if you omit certain words, you should put several periods to get two sets of quotes. In addition, young people should specify line numbers from each quotation set, for instance, Covey 8-10, 18-20. Finally, pay attention that in-text citation will stand out from the common author-line number formatting style if a quote is longer than one line.

If it is about a Works Cited entry, it will look like the following:

Plath, Silvia. Ariel. HarperCollins Publishers Inc, 1992, pp. 1-8.

How to Cite Poetry in Essay 

You shouldn't underline the poem's title, and it shouldn't appear in italics. If you need to divide the poem's lines, you should involve a few slashes and add extra space from each side. When you decide to paraphrase the lines, you cannot place them in their original order. Instead, you should capitalize the initial letter of each line.

Citing a Poem in Cited Works
  1. If you need to specify a poem you have come across in a book, you should do it in the following way:

The poet's last and first name. The poem's title. The book's title. Location (city) of publication, publisher, and year. Page number. Print (publication medium).

  1. If you have run into a poem on the internet, the citation format will look the following: 

Poet's first and last names. Website name. The day of its post (day-month-year). Publication medium (internet).

How to Cite Poems in APA?

If you don't cite poems in MLA, the chances are high that you will have to do it in APA. It is another tremendously popular citing format in the academic environment. Thus, if you don't know how to cite a poem in APA, it is worth finding this out before you proceed to work on your paper. If your professor didn't specify it as the key format, you should check whether your specialty or subject's specific falls in its category. In the case it is considered appropriate for APA citation poem, you should follow the next rules:

  • if you utilize a short quote that is no more than forty words, you should surely involve quotation marks;
  • starting a short quotation from a new line is unacceptable;
  • you should mark line breaks with a slash if it is about a short quote;
  • in the case of a long quotation that exceeds forty words, you should utilize a block citation and start it from a new line;
  • you shouldn't use quotation marks when it comes to blocking citations;
  • use double-space formatting and an indent of 1,3 cm from the left margin.

How to Cite a Poem in an Essay

When there is a need to cite a book-length poem, you should follow guidelines created for print books. Thus, you should find out how to cite a poem in a textbook properly. Even though there is nothing complicated about it, you should learn the nuances of punctuation and capitalization. It should necessarily involve the poet's last and first names, year of publication, the title of the poem itself, location, and publisher. If you take a quotation from a book, you should indicate a source reference on the Works Cited page. It should look like the following way:

Plath, S. (2018). Ariel. T. Hughes (Ed,), The Collected Poems (pp.12-13). New York, USA: Harper Perennial Modern Classics. 

How to cite a poem on a website? If you have found a suitable quote on the internet, you should finalize everything in the following way:

Plath, S. (2013, February 12). Ariel. Retrieved from

Technical Features of How to Cite a Poem in APA Format

If your professor has asked you to format your paper according to APA style, you should find out all the nuances of such a requirement. There is a wide range of technical moments you should consider when citing poems in this format. However, we'll consider only fundamental moments that play a crucial role and can affect your grade. There is always a likelihood of missing something out, so you should better keep these recommendations in front of your eyes.

Quotation Marks

Everyone who has something to do with writing academic papers knows how important it is to cite all the sources used to tailor paperwork. Quotation marks play a crucial role here, so you should pay them special attention. Hence, if you utilize a short quotation (less than forty words), it is necessary to apply quotation marks. You don't need to devote a separate line for the quote.

Plath wrote, "Eye, the cauldron of morning."

Line Breaks

How to mention poems in an essay? When you quote more than one line of a poem, it is crucial to indicate the line breaks. That's why you should involve a forward slash between the lines. No exceptions are accepted.

"God's lioness, / How one we grew, / Pivot of heels and knees! — The furrow."

Block Quotes

As already mentioned above, a quotation that consists of more than forty words requires a specific block formatting. In this case, indentation performs the function of quotation marks, so the latter becomes superfluous. You should adhere to the double-space formatting. 

How to Cite a Poem Examples:

Stasis in darkness.

Then the substanceless blue

Pour of tor and distances.


God's lioness,

How one we grew,

Pivot of heels and knees!—The furrow


Splits and passes, sister to

The brown arc

Of the neck I cannot catch,



Berries cast dark



Black sweet blood mouthfuls,


Tips on How to Cite a Poetry Piece of Writing

If you want to become a straight-A student, you should follow all the recommendations of your professor. When they don't provide you with anything, you should follow the commonly accepted rules depending on the suitable citation formatting. For instance, you should know how to format a poem title according to MLA and APA styles. On the other hand, if you are a rookie, you should be extremely careful with all these peculiarities since it is easy to miss something out. Besides, there is a range of tips and tricks that will be useful in any case regardless of formatting style:

  1. Examine the whole poem to properly get the essence of the citation and the poet's message. Then you can decide which lines will fit in your essay and make it more outstanding.
  2. Inform your readers about why you have chosen the poem's lines, its key message, and how it relates to the essay theme. Don't make your target audience get lost.
  3. Don't overdo it with quotations in your paperwork. You can paraphrase instead of quoting if you want to share some others' opinions. Don't forget that you create a completely new piece of writing, so you shouldn't rely on others' ideas all the time.
  4. You don't have to cite the full poem if only several lines in the beginning and several in the end seem suitable and attractive to you. Turn a blind eye to middle lines that don't match your purpose and resort to using ellipses to emphasize that you omit some words.
  5. Employ embedded quotes that serve as a part of your context. You can use it in any part of your sentence. Just make sure it fits holistically in the context. 
  6. If you utilize a specific source (for instance, a website), you should double-check the citing demands of the format applied. It is necessary to go deep down the question to cover all the peculiarities, so pay attention to that.
  7. When you finish your essay, it is worth reviewing it several times. Leave the ready-made paper for a while to clear up your head and get distracted from the text you have written. It will be easier to notice all the mistakes and arrange quality proofreading. Make sure all the cited quotations are used appropriately and correctly.