MLA and APA Poem Citation Formatting Quotations

Writing and its related skills are required for academic success, particularly in the humanities. The proper use of quotations is one such skill. Making a quote means including another author’s exact words in your essay — these words could also be lines from a poem.


When Should Poem Quotes Be Used?

When should you use a poem citation? Quotes from poems are most commonly used by liberal arts, literature, and language students. It isn’t easy to imagine writing an essay about a poet without mentioning his works or describing a poetry trend without providing examples. Poem lines can also be found in descriptive, reflective, argumentative, and compare and contrast essays.

If you are not a student of the humanities, you may use poem citations in your work if the meaning of the line(s) you have chosen is relevant. While there are no rules regarding where you may cite a poem, there are many regarding how you should do so in various formatting styles. Continue reading to learn more about correctly citing a poem or seek professional assistance.


Using MLA Style to Cite Poem Quotes

MLA is the most widely used formatting style (Modern Language Association). Even though it may be the most straightforward style to use, you will need to learn all of the rules and practice applying them.

The rules for citing a poem in MLA style vary depending on the length of the citation. Quotes of up to three lines are considered short, and sections of more than three are considered long.


Citing a Short Quote

  • There’s no need to start a short quote on a new line; you can write it between the lines.
  • It is, however, required to put it in quotation marks.
  • Put question or exclamation marks inside quotation marks if they are part of the poem; leave them outside if they are part of your text.
  • To indicate line breaks, use a slash or a double slash if there is a stanza break; place a space before and after the slash.
  • All lines of the poem should begin with a capital letter (at the beginning and after the slash marks).

For example, in his poem “Song of Myself,” Walt Whitman wrote, “I exist as I am, and that is enough; / If no other person in the world is aware of my existence, / And if everyone is aware of my existence, I sit content.”


Citing a Long Quote

  • It is important to remember that some principles apply to lengthy quotes that are opposed to those that use short quotes — and that you should be extremely careful not to confuse the two.
  • Please make a new line at the beginning of your quotation and indent it by half an inch from the left margin.
  • Please put it in a blockquote to make it more readable. Include line breaks in the quote in the same manner as they appear in the original text.
  • It is essential to maintain the original formatting and punctuation as part of the author’s style.
  • Double-space between paragraphs within the quote.
  • There is no need to include quotation marks or slashes; leave them out.

The following is an example: 

Because I was unable to halt for Death,

 He graciously made the stop for me; 

the carriage held only ourselves 

and Immortality.


Citing the Title of the Poem

Regardless of how long a quote is, you should always include the poet’s last name at the end of it. If you have more than one poem by the same author in your work, you should also provide the poem’s title in your citation. The citation can be made in one of two ways: either before the quotation in the main text or after the quotation in the parenthetical citation at the end of the lines. If you mentioned the author’s name and the title before the quote, but you’re not sure whether or not the reader would recognize it, you can repeat it in a parenthetical citation. It will not be deemed a grammatical error.

Additionally, a parenthetical citation should include a line or page number, in addition to the poet’s Last name and the title of the poem. Some basic principles for using parenthetical citations are as follows:

  • If a poem was published, the line number is in the margin. In the first quotation of your work, use the word “line” or “lines.” Only use numbers in the following quotations from the same sources as before.

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

  • When there are no line numbers in the margin, place the page number in parentheses after the poet’s last name instead. A comma should not be used between the poet’s name and the page number.


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

  • If you found it on a website or if the page numbers are unavailable for other reasons, do not include any numbers at all. Only the poet’s Last name and the poem’s title should be left (if required as mentioned above).

“Tell me, what do you intend to accomplish / with your one wild and precious life?” is an example. (Source: Mary Oliver)

  • If you included the poet’s Last name and the poem’s title before the citation (if necessary, as indicated above), but you did not include lines or page numbers, you should not have an in-text citation following the quote in any way.

For example, here’s what Pablo Neruda had to say about it: “I love you as certain dark things are to be loved / in secret, between the shadow and the spirit.”

  • If you want to cite the title of the poem within your text rather than in a parenthetical citation, there are two ways to do so, and it depends on the length of the title. The titles of short poems should be cited in quotation marks.

For example, “A Book,” “Fire and Ice,” or “Nothing Gold Can Stay” are all possible titles.

  • Italicize the names of long poems if they are more than a few words long.

For example, I stopped beside the woods on a snowy evening because I couldn’t bear the thought of dying.

  • Remember to include a complete reference for each source in your Works Cited page at the end of your essay. If the poem was taken from a book, the citation should be formatted: Last Name, First name of the poet “Poem Title.” The Book’s Title: Subtitle (if applicable), edited by the Editor’s First Name Last Name, Edition (if given and not first), Publisher’s Name (often abbreviated), Year of Publication, pp. xx-xx

Examples include Emily Dickinson’s “A Book.” Anthony Eyre’s Emily Dickinson: Selected Poems, published by Mount Orleans Press in 2019, contains Emily Dickinson’s life poems.

  • It is recommended that you use the following format for your poetry citation if it was copied from a website: Last Name and First name of the poet. “The Title of the Poem.” The title of the book is Subtitle (if any), and the year of publication (if given and is not first), Name of the publisher (often shortened), Year of publication, website name, and URL are all included. The date of access was accessed.

Frost, Robert, “Fire and Ice,” gives an example. (accessed April 19, 2019). The date is November 28th, 2019.


How to Cite a Poem in APA Format?

The abbreviation for American Psychological Association is APA, and it is the second most popular formatting style, primarily used in social studies. Here are some APA rules for poem citations you should be aware of:

  • Using quotation marks is required for poem quotes of up to 40 words (short quotes).
  • A quick 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 more than 40 words long (long quotes).
  • A block citation must begin on a new line.
  • For block citations, do not use quotation marks.
  • The quotations should be indented 1.3 cm from the left and formatted double space.

An Example of a Long Quote:

In the following passage, Emily Dickinson describes the significance of a book:

No frigate can compare to a book.

To transport us to distant lands,

There are no courses, such as a page, either.

Of prancing poetry, to be precise.

According to some, this is the worst route to take

Without the imposition of a toll;

How frugal is the chariot’s use of resources?

That bears the imprint of a human soul! 2019.


A Short Quote Example: 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, / And miles to go before I sleep.”


How to Cite a Poem: Tips and Tricks

Here are some pointers on how to properly format poem quotations. They will be helpful whether you are a novice or an advanced user of poem citations, regardless of the formatting style you use.

  • Read the entire poem to ensure that you correctly understand the citation and the author’s message. Then, choose which lines will be used as a quote in your work.
  • Please write a few words about why you chose the lines from your poem, their message, and how they relate to your essay topic.
  • Use quotations sparingly in your writing. You can also paraphrase instead of quoting to share other people’s points of view. Furthermore, it is your work, and you should not rely solely on the words of others.
  • There’s no need to cite the entire poem if you only need 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 connect with your text between them.
  • Use embedded quotations. These are quotations that are used as part of your sentence. You can put it at the beginning, middle, or end of your sentence. The goal is to make it a natural part of your text. For example, Robert Frost once said, “I hold with those who favor fire.”
  • When citing a specific source (for example, a journal or a website), check the specifics on how to mention it in MLA or another format — there are some details we didn’t have time to cover.
  • Proofread your cited quotes for appropriate usage and proper formatting in conjunction with the final review of your essay.