How to Cite a Poem in MLA | Quoting & Citing Correctly
When you quote poetry, you have to properly format the quotation and the in-text citation, in order to direct the reader to the correct source entry in the Works Cited list.
Separate lines in a poetry quotation with a slash, and include the poet’s last name either in your text or in parentheses after the quote. To show the location of the quote, include line numbers (if specified in the text) or a page number (if the poem is published across multiple pages).
In the Works Cited entry, include the full publication details of the source in which you found the poem (e.g. a book or website). You can use our free MLA citation generator to create Works Cited entries and in-text citations.
How to quote poetry in MLA
When you quote a single line of a poem (or part of a line), simply put it in quotation marks as you would for any other quote. For quotations of multiple lines, there are some specific formatting requirements.
If you quote two or three lines, use a forward slash to mark the line breaks. Put a space before and after the slash. Make sure to use the same punctuation, capitalization, and styling as in the original text.
If there is a stanza break between the lines, use a double slash.
If you quote more than three lines of poetry, set them off as a block quote. Use an introductory sentence ending with a colon, then start the quotation on a new line, indented half an inch from the left margin, with no quotation marks.
When block quoting poetry, include all line breaks in the quotation and keep the formatting as close to the original as possible. If there is any unusual spacing, reproduce this in the block quote.
MLA in-text citations for poems
When quoting a poem, the poet’s last name must be clearly stated so that the reader can locate the source in the Works Cited list. If you cite more than one poem by the same author, you also need to mention the title of the poem you are quoting.
Often you will name the poet and title in the main text as you introduce the quote. If not, or if there is any ambiguity about which poem you are referring to, include the author name and/or title in a parenthetical citation after the quote.
Line numbers and page numbers in in-text citations
Sometimes poems are published with line numbers in the margin. In this case, use the line numbers in your in-text citation to more precisely locate the quote. Use the word “line” or “lines” (preceded by a comma) in the first citation, but only the numbers in subsequent citations.
If there are no line numbers displayed in the source, do not count them manually. If the poem is published over multiple pages, use the page number instead.
If there are no page or line numbers available (for example, when accessing a poem on a website), or if the poem appears on a single page of the published text, without line numbers, you only need to include the poet’s name.
If you have already mentioned the author when introducing the quotation, and there are no line or page numbers, no parenthetical citation is needed.
Consecutive citations of the same poem
If you cite the same poem repeatedly within a paragraph, you only need to mention the author’s name in the first citation. Subsequent citations can just consist of line or page numbers (or be omitted entirely if there are no numbers to give), as long as it’s clear from the context that you’re still citing the same poem.
However, give the full citation again if you start a new paragraph or cite another source in between.
MLA Works Cited entry for a poem
In the Works Cited entry, you start with the poet’s name, followed by the title of the poem in quotation marks. Then include details of the source where the poem was published. Usually you will follow the format of an MLA book citation or an MLA website citation.
Poem in a book
If the poem is from a collection of the poet’s work, add the name of the book in italics; the publisher; the year; and the page or page range on which the poem appears.
|MLA format||Author last name, First name. “Poem Title.” Book Title, Publisher, Year, Page number(s).|
|MLA Works Cited entry||Rich, Adrienne. “Fox.” Fox: Poems 1998–2000, W. W. Norton, 2001, p. 25.|
|MLA in-text citation||(Rich)|
Poem in an anthology
If the poem was published as part of an edited collection, follow the same format as above, but add the name(s) of the book’s editor(s).
|MLA format||Author last name, First name. “Poem Title.” Book Title, edited by Editor first name Last name, Publisher, Year, Page number(s).|
|MLA Works Cited entry||Heaney, Seamus. “Funeral Rites.” The Penguin Book of Contemporary Irish Poetry, edited by Peter Fallon and Derek Mahon, Penguin Books, 1990, pp. 149–151.|
|MLA in-text citation||(Heaney 150)|
Poem on a website
If you accessed the poem on a website, include the name of the website and the URL. If the web page has a publication date, include this; if not, add the date on which you accessed it. If relevant, you can also add the original publication year directly after the poem’s title.
|MLA format||Author last name, First name. “Poem Title.” Original publication year. Website Name, Day Month Year, URL.|
|MLA Works Cited entry||Mahon, Derek. “A Disused Shed in Co. Wexford.” 1975. Poetry Foundation, www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/92154/a-disused-shed-in-co-wexford. Accessed 25 June 2019.|
|MLA in-text citation||(Mahon)|
Frequently asked questions about citing poetry in MLA
- How do I format a poetry quotation in MLA?
If the quote includes line breaks, mark these using a forward slash with a space on either side. Use two slashes to indicate a stanza break.
If the quote is longer than three lines, set them off from the main text as an MLA block quote. Reproduce the line breaks, punctuation, and formatting of the original.
- How do I cite a poem in the text in MLA?
If line numbers or page numbers are included in the original source, add these to the citation.
- Should I include line numbers in an MLA poetry citation?
Only use line numbers in an MLA in-text citation if the lines are numbered in the original source. If so, write “lines” in the first citation of the poem, and only the numbers in subsequent citations.
- How do I cite a poem in an MLA Works Cited list?