How to Cite Poetry in MLA Format

One of the most popular forms of expression in the world, poetry has been around for centuries. William Shakespeare, one of history's most famous English writers, published 154 of his own poems. Modern Language Association style is intended primarily as a writing guide for those penning works related to language and literature, and it is likely that an author will find the need to cite a poem while following the style.

Collect Information

The first step to writing an accurate citation for poetry is identifying the most pertinent information. The seventh edition of the MLA Handbook and third edition of the MLA Style Manual and Guide to Scholarly Publishing state that you will need to identify the name of the poet, the title of the anthology where the poem appears and the page where it is located. Additionally, you should know the name of the editor, the publisher and the date of publication. You can find the required information on the same page as the poem or on the book's main copyright page.

The Full Citation

In order to create a citation for your works cited page, you simply need to place the collected information in the proper order. First, identify the poet by writing the last name, a comma and the first name, followed by a period. Next, list the poem's title in quotation marks, and then place a period. Follow that up with the title of the full work the poem appears in; place this in italics. Then, write the name of the work's editor (if applicable) and follow with a period. Next, name the city in which the work was published, a colon and the publishing house. Follow that with a comma, the year of publication and a period. Conclude the citation with the number of the page the poem is found on and the medium of publication; follow each item with a period.

The Parenthetical Citation

A parenthetical citation is a brief in-text reference directing readers to your full citation located on the works cited page. If the author is mentioned by name in the sentence in question, the following parenthetical citation should include only the page number. If the author is not mentioned by name, you should list the author's name, followed by the page number. No punctuation is needed in the citation.


Though this may seem complicated, it is quite simple in practice. For instance, to cite a version of Edgar Allan Poe's poem The Raven, your works cited page citation would read: Poe, Edgar A. "The Raven." Edgar Allan Poe: Complete Tales and Poems (italicized). Edison, New Jersey: Castle Books, 2002. 773. Print.

Your parenthetical citation would read either (Poe 773) or (773), depending on the content of the previous sentence.

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