According to the "Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association" (6th edition), consistency in style matters such as the formatting of a poem's title helps prevent distraction or confusion in the reader. The three major style types, APA, MLA and Chicago, vary in some respects but follow similar guidelines regarding formatting poetry titles.
In APA format, formatting of the title depends upon whether the piece stands alone. A poem that is part of a larger work, such as a collection of poetry or a Web page, should have quotation marks around the title. Similarly, the "MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers" (7th edition) calls for quotation marks around poems that do not stand alone. "Chicago Manual of Style" (16th edition) follows the same rules as MLA. In all three formats, capitalize the first word and all important words following it when the title appears in the text or an in-text citation. The title should appear in a citation only if no author is known.
In APA, MLA and Chicago styles, poems published as books on their own, such as epic poems, have different formatting. Instead of quotation marks, these titles are treated like books and so are placed in italics. Capitalization rules for long poems follow the same guidelines as those for shorter poems. The first word and all subsequent important words are capitalized, whether in the context of a sentence or within an in-text citation in parentheses. As with shorter poems, the title should appear in a citation only if no author is known.