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MLA & APA Citation: Poem

Parenthetical Documentation

Citing Poetry in the Text of Your Paper (Parenthetical Documentation)

Because poems are often reprinted in various editions and anthologies, they are cited by line number rather than by page number.


Quoting Three Lines or Fewer MLA 3.7.3, 6.4.8

When you are quoting three lines or fewer from a poem, you may incorporate the quotation into the body of your paragraph.

Tips for quoting up to three lines of poetry:

  • Use slashes (/) to indicate line breaks within the poem
  • Keep all punctuation intact as it appears in the poem
  • Use quotation marks to denote the beginning and end of the quotation

If you have included the name of the poet elsewhere in your paper, do not include the poet's name in your parenthetical citation. Instead, include the first significant word of the poem's title, followed by the line number(s). This is especially important if you are quoting more than one poem by the same author in your paper.


Eliot immediately engages the reader with his use of the second person in the opening lines: "Let us go then, you and I / When the evening is spread out against the sky" ("Prufrock" 1-2).


However, if you have mentioned the title of the poem in the sentences immediately preceding you quotation, you can cite the line number only.


In his "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock," Eliot immediately engages the reader with his use of the second person in the opening lines: "Let us go then, you and I / When the evening is spread out against the sky" (1-2).



Quoting Four or More Lines MLA 3.7.3

Tips for quoting four or more lines of poetry:

  • Start the quotation on a new line.
  • Indent each line one inch from the left margin of your paragraph.
  • Preserve all punctuation, spacing, and line breaks exactly as they appear in the original text of the poem.
  • Double-space between each line.
  • Do not use quotation marks (unless they are used in the poem).


Yeats, an Irish nationalist himself, knew several of the Easter Monday rebels personally, and he mentions them by name in his poem. He even notes his former nemesis, Major John MacBride. MacBride was briefly married to Yeats's love, Maude Gonne. Though he acknowledges MacBride's heroism, he does so begrudgingly:

         A drunken, vainglorious lout

         He had done most bitter wrong

         To some who are near my heart

         Yet I number him in the song; ("Easter" 31-34)


Works Cited

Eliot, T.S. "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock." Literature: Reading Fiction, Poetry, and Drama. Ed. Robert DiYanni. 6th ed.

         Boston: McGraw-Hill, 2007. 1102-1105. Print.

Yeats, William Butler. "Easter 1916." The Norton Anthology of Poetry. Ed. Margaret Ferguson, Mary Jo Salter, and John

         Stallworthy. 5th ed. New York: Norton, 2005. 1194-1195. Print.

Sample Works Cited

Poetry in the Works Cited List

The format of your citation will depend on the source of the poem. Poetry is usually published in one of the following sources:

  • A literature or poetry anthology
  • A collection of one author's poems
  • As a single volume (for longer poems)

Tips for Citing Poetry:

  • If the poetry is in an anthology, look at the title page to see if there is an editor.
  • Always begin the citation with the poet, NOT the editor of the anthology.
  • If you are citing several poems from the same anthology or collection, create a separate citation for each poem.
  • Enclose the title of the poem in quotation marks unless the poem is published as a single volume.



Poem in an Anthology or Collection MLA 5.5.6

Anthology, Poet and Editor

Most poetry is published as part of a larger collection of poems (and possibly prose works) called an anthology. Many anthologies have a volume editor in addition to to authors of the individual works; look on the title page to determine if the anthology has an editor.




A Collection of Poems by a Single Poet

If the poem is published in a collection of one poet's work and there is no editor listed on the title page, use the anthology format, but omit the editor.

If you are citing more than one poem from the same collection, create a citation for each poem.




Poem Published as a Single Volume MLA 5.5.2

Some long poems may be published as a single book volume. Cite these as you would a regular book. 




Poem Published in an eBook MLA 5.6.2c

Cite the work as you would a print book, followed by:

  •  the database in which you accessed the e-book
  •  the medium of publication
  •  the date of access




Poem Accessed on a Web Site MLA 5.6.2b

Cite the poem as a page or article on a web site.

Tips for citing Web sources:

  • You may have to navigate to other pages on the Web site to find citation information ("About Us," About this Site," etc.)
  • If you cannot find some of the elements of the citation, you may omit the missing elements. 
  • MLA does not require the URL of the Web site to be included in the citation. However, if your instructor requires the URL, place it at the end of the citation.
  • To ensure accuracy, only use poems from the Web sites of reputable scholars, publishers, or organizations. Click here for information about evaluating Web sites.




See the Web Sites page for more information about citing material from the Web.