Citing Poetry in MLA & APA: 6 Key Tips to Remember

Many college students have no problem with academic writing. However, referencing is a daunting task that requires a lot of attention, patience and extensive research. Not to mention the constant updates in the formatting guides. Referencing becomes harder and harder with every term.

Citing poetry, tables, images and other content that differs from plain text and direct quotes is especially difficult. Students must observe rules that cover font size, quotation marks, author’s name, date and many more parameters. For many, the final touches associated with formatting are more exhausting than the writing itself.



There is no universal or best referencing style. Students must know the basics of APA, MLA, Harvard, and Turabian before referencing their work. However, it is not as difficult as it seems when you have Citing Poetry MLA and APA guides at hand. Our quick and easy tips can help you reference any poem as professional writers do.

Citing Poetry in MLA

In MLA 8, the requirements for citing a poem have not significantly changed. Thus, let’s review the main rules for quoting poetry.

  1. If you cite a single line of a poem or even a part of it, you should put it in quotation marks. That’s basically it. You do not need to start on a new line.
  2. If you need to cite two or three lines, you need to put them in quotation marks too. However, to show that these are separate lines, you need to insert a forward slash ( / ) between them. A space should be placed before and after each slash. Also, keep in mind, that the spelling and punctuation should coincide with the original.
  3. If you quote lines with a stanza break, you have to use an extra slash ( // ).
  4. If you need to quote more than three lines, you should make a block quote. In this case, the quotation should start from a new line, indent half of an inch from the left margin and don’t use quotation marks. Formatting must be the same as in the original.
  5. To make a correct in-text citation for poems, you should remember that it is not pages that you should specify, but lines. Put the surname of the author in brackets as well as mention the number of the line you are using. For example, (Eliot 19­­­–20). If the lines are numbered, use the page number. If you have found the poem online with no page number, leave only the author’s surname in the brackets.
  6. The entry for the poetry quotation in MLA looks similar to other entries. You should mention the author’s surname and name. Then put the title of the poem in quotation marks. Add the title of the book or the website where this poem can be found in italics. Finish with the year of publication or the link and the access date at the end.

Citing Poetry in APA

In October 2019, APA has released its 7th edition. It included some major changes for in-text and entry citations, but the general rules for poetry remained the same.

  1. If you are going to quote one line or a part of the line, you should put it in quotation marks. You do not need to begin the citation on a new line.
  2. The citation should be followed by the author’s surname and the date of publication in brackets. The page number is only applicable when referencing direct quotes.
  3. Two lines of the poem should be separated by a forward slash. Place it exactly where the first line ends.
  4. If you need to cite three or more lines of poetry, make a block quote. You should keep it as similar to the original as you can. No quotation marks are needed in this case. All you need to do is to start the quotation on a new line, indenting the second and final lines.
  5. The in-text citation for the block quote in APA follows the final punctuation in the quote, not vice versa.
  6. For the poems published in books, use the parenthetical citation in the standard book format. If you found the poem online, reference it as a web page. Poems published in edited books or anthologies should be cited as those taken from an edited book.

Final Words

Citing poetry is a bit of a challenge. However, if you know where to look for credible information, it will not be a problem. Also, there are plenty of automated citation makers that can do all the referencing for you. All you need to do is to edit it cross-checking it with the most recent APA or MLA style edition.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *