How do I Cite A Poem?: MLA and APA Formatting Guide

Sep 12, 2021

How do I Cite A Poem?: MLA and APA Formatting Guide

Poem literature is an extensive field that many students find complicated to master. The fact that most poems are short, bearing hidden meanings, and written in a complicated language makes it even harder for newbies to get it right.

In this article, we explain to you how to analyze and reference your poem in APA

You're probably here because it's proving challenging to cite a poem in your assignments. You're not alone, most of your counterparts have also experienced similar challenges, and they got help by reading this guide. The most popular format for citing poems is MLA and APA. This guide will give you insights into quoting a poem using MLA and APA.


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How to Cite A Poem in MLA?

Quoting a poem in academic writing requires you to appropriately format the poem and the in-text citation to guide your reader to the source in your work cited page. MLA is the most popular citation format for poems. To begin with, separate the line quotes from the poem using a slash and include the poet's last name after the quote. Show the quote's location in the poem by including line numbers or page numbers if the poem has been published across several pages. For example;

  1. The poet satirically says, “My apple trees will never get across / And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him" (Frost, lines 25-26).

When making a work cited entry of the poem, including the poem's full publication details. You can create the work cited entry or use an MLA citation generator. Example;

  1. Frost, Robert. Mending wall. Enoch Pratt Free Library, 1934.

Adding a Poem Quote in MLA

Put quotation marks when quoting a single line of a poem. However, quoting more lines has to comply with specific requirements.

  • Quoting 2-3 Lines

As already noted earlier, quoting two or more lines require separation of the individual lines using slashes.

  1. Example: Something there is that doesn't love a wall/That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it,

Use double slashes if the quoted lines are in separate stanzas without line numbers at the margin.

  1. Example: To where it bent in the undergrowth; //Then took the other, as just as fair, (Frost 124)
  • Quoting 4+ Lines

In cases where you quote four or more lines, begin with an introductory sentence that ends in a colon before setting the quote in a block.

For example;

  • Frost employs extensive imagery when he says:
  • Where are there cows? But here, there are no cows.
  • Before I built a wall, I'd ask to know
  • What I was walling in or walling out,
  • And to whom I was like to give offense. (Frost, stanza2 lines 1-4).

There are two ways of citing a poem without line numbers at the margin. The first one is counting the lines physically according to the stanzas and quoting the exact line number. You can alternatively use page number.

Citing a Poem Taken from a Website;

Use the following format if the poem is from an online website:

  1. The poet's last name, First Name. “The Poem’s Title.” Book Title, Edition if available, Publisher Name, Publication Year, Website Name, URL. Access date. 

Here is an example.

  1. Frost, Robert. “Mending Wall.” Poetry Foundation. (n.d).  Accessed 8 August 2021.

Citing a Poem in APA

APA is an acronym for American Psychological Association, and it's the second most used citation style. The method is prevalent in social sciences but, it's also a common citation method for poems. Follow these APA citation rules whenever you’re citing a poem.

  • Use quotation marks for quotes up to 40 words and separate lines with slashes.
  • Use block citation for quotes exceeding 40 words.
  • A block citation must begin in a new line.
  • Quotation marks are not necessary for block citations.
  • Always indent block quotations at 1.3 cm off the margin.

Example of short quotation citation

Frost, in his poem Mending Wall, observes, "I have come after them and made repair/Where they have left not one stone on a stone,"

A long quotation example;

  • Here is what Frost says about mending walls:
  • There where it is, we do not need the wall:
  • He is all pine, and I am apple orchard.
  • My apple trees will never get across
  • And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.
  • He only says, ‘Good fences make good neighbors.’

Provide a complete reference of the source of the quote at the end of your paper. Follow this format if you took the quote from a book;

►Poet’s Last Name, First Name Initial. (Year). Title of the Poem. Editorial Initial, if any. Last Name. Book Title (PP. xx-xx). City. Publisher.

  • ►Frost, R. (2010). The Road Not Taken, Birches, and Other Poems. Coyote Canyon Press.
  • ►Use this template if the quote is taken from a website or other online sources;
  • ►Poet’s Last Name, First name Initial. (Year, Month Day). Title of the poem. Retrieved from website
  • ►Frost, R. (2015, September 11). The Road Not Taken. Retrieved from

Citing a poem becomes easier once you familiarize yourself with the citation formats. Your professor will recommend the citation style for you in your term paper. Always read the entire poem and follow the stipulated MLA and APA guidelines when citing your paper.

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