How to Quote and Cite a Poem in an Essay Using MLA Format
Quotations can add interest to an essay or provide a concrete example of a point you want to get across to your reader, which is especially important for papers on literary analysis. Quoting a poem in an essay is not quite as effortless as putting quotation marks around the text. The Modern Language Association style has guidelines on how to quote a poem based on its length, purpose in text and format.
Incorporate the quote into a sentence within the body of your paragraph if you quote a short section of a poem in your essay. For example, write, “The phrase, ‘I first surmised the Horses’ Heads / Were toward Eternity’ in Emily Dickinson’s poem ‘Because I could not stop for Death’ describes that death leads to an eternal afterlife.”
Put quotation marks around all the text from the poem, including any punctuation marks. (see References 1-4)
Mark stanza breaks with the backslash “/” in between line breaks, and use a double backslash to indicate stanza breaks.
Use a standard ellipsis, or “…”, preceded and followed by a space, in place of lines you eliminate in the middle of your quote.
Start on a new line of your page to begin your block quote, which MLA dictates should be used if your quotation is four lines of text or longer. Indent all lines one inch from the left margin of the paper, per MLA format.
Maintain double-spacing, and include all punctuation as it is written in the poem.
Maintain the original formatting of the poem, particularly those that have special indentations.
Do not use quotation marks in a block quote unless these are original quote marks in the poem. Start a new line to continue the body of your paper after the block quote.
Include the author's last name and the page number of the poem in parentheses for MLA style in-text citations. Put this citation at the end of a sentence but before the period after a short quotation, or on a separate line after the block quotation. Do not put in-text citations inside the quotation marks.
Only include the page number in parentheses as the in-text citation if you mention the poem’s author in the same sentence as the quote.
Include the poem author, poem title, book title, book editor, year of publication, place of publication, page number and medium of publication in the listing in the Works Cited listing, as the following example shows:
Dickinson, Emily. “Because I could not stop for Death.” The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson 1850-1870 (italicized). Ed. Thomas H. Johnson. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1960. 712. Print.
Put the website name and any publisher information available in place of the book and publication information, and include the date you accessed the site, if you obtained the poem from an online source, as follows:
Dickinson, Emily. “Because I could not stop for Death.” The Academy of American Poets (italicized). Web. 25 July 2014. http://www.poets.org/
Use a hanging indent for each entry in the Works Cited page.
Add the URL of the webpage if you cited a poem from an online source for your own reference, although this practice is optional in MLA style.
- Pellissippi State Community College: Citing Poetry in the Text of Your Paper
- Borough of Manhattan Community College: In Text Quotations of Poems and Plays in MLA Style
- Purdue Online Writing Lab: MLA Formatting Quotations
- Purdue Online Writing Lab: MLA Works Cited Page: Books
- Purdue Online Writing Lab: MLA Works Cited: Electronic Sources
- Add the URL of the webpage if you cited a poem from an online source for your own reference, although this practice is optional in MLA style.
Cara Batema is a musician, teacher and writer who specializes in early childhood, special needs and psychology. Since 2010, Batema has been an active writer in the fields of education, parenting, science and health. She holds a bachelor's degree in music therapy and creative writing.