How to Separate Lines in Poems When Quoting for Essays
Poets often create line breaks midsentence to create an effect either visually or emotionally. When you quote a poem within an essay, you should make every effort to maintain these line breaks, preserving the integrity of the poem.
When you quote three consecutive lines or fewer in a poem, you should use a backslash to show the line break. For example, in Mary Oliver’s poem, you would quote the first three lines as “The female, and the two chicks,/each no bigger than my thumb,/scattered.” Place quotation marks around the lines, and, if using the MLA or Chicago style when writing, leave a space before and after the backslash. Associated Press style uses the slash but does not use a space before and after it.
If you quote four or more lines of a poem, you will need to use a block quote. This means you will introduce the poem and then, on the next line, indent 10 spaces from the left margin. Copy the lines of the poem exactly. You do not need to use quotation marks or backslashes. When you have included the last line of the poem, go to the next line to continue the essay.
- Prentice Hall Reference Guide; Muriel Harris
- Poetry Foundation: Hummingbirds
- The Chicago Manual of Style, Sixteenth Edition
Kate Beck started writing for online publications in 2005. She worked as a certified ophthalmic technician for 10 years before returning to school to earn a Masters of Fine Arts degree in writing. Beck is currently putting the finishing touches on a novel.