How to Cite a Poem in MLA – Format & Examples

Time to read: 4 Minutes
How-to-Cite-a-Poem-in-MLA-Definition

Students and researchers use the MLA writing style in academic writing to format their publications. Poetry is often used as a research source in various disciplines.

You can use the MLA citation, to highlight the poems used in your research.

How to Cite a Poem in MLA – In a Nutshell

  • Poems may be used for various research purposes as primary and secondary research sources to answer a research problem.
  • MLA poem citation comprises the rules to be followed when citing poems in MLA writing.
  • Proper citation is important to guide readers to the original source.

Definition: MLA poem citation

MLA poem citation refers to the format of citing poetry sources within an MLA-formatted academic paper. Use a slash (/) to separate individual lines when quoting a poem and mention the poet’s name within the text or after the quote within parentheses. Where specified, use line or page numbers to show the location of the quote.1

The Works Cited section should show a detailed description of your sources, including poetry. To cite a poem in the Works Cited area, mention the source of the poem, such as a website blog or a book.2

How to cite a poem in MLA

Use quotation marks if you’re citing one line or part of a single line. When you’re quoting more than one line, MLA poem citation provides the following formats:

How to cite a poem in MLA when quoting 2 to 3 lines
MLA poem citation for quoting two or more lines, show line breaks with a forward slash. Add a space on either side of the slash and ensure you are consistent with the capitalization and punctuation for both the quotation and the main text.3
How to cite a poem in MLA when quoting 4 or more lines
Introduce a block quote with a sentence marked off with a colon and begin your quotation on an indented new line, without quotation marks from the left margin with a half-inch indent.
Maintain the original formatting as much as possible, and keep the line breaks as formatted.4
How to cite a poem in MLA example

How to cite a poem in MLA citation using two or three lines:

A double dash marks stanza breaks on either side of the lines:
The wind blows on a cold night in the middle of the desert: “The weary traveler trots on. // The moon lingers and a pair of eyes peer from the dark, / There are no winters or summers” (Peters).

How to cite a poem in MLA when quoting 4 or more lines

Peter’s poem begins with a depiction of the desert wasteland:

The critters of the night come alive at dusk
When the sun goes down, a call echoes in the sands
A chilling cry that mimics the draft that blows gently
The moon follows the man wherever he goes

How to cite a poem in MLA – In-text citation

When generating MLA poem citation within the text, state the writer’s last name in line with the Works Cited page. Clearly indicate the title of each poem by the same author.5

Line numbers and page numbers in MLA in-text citations
For poems that have line numbers, maintain the numbering as you write your in-text citation to make it easier to find the quote. Add a coma and include the word 'line' for the first citation.
How to cite a poem in MLA with no line numbers
Where a source doesn't have numbers to show lines, state the page number rather than counting the lines manually.
How to cite a poem in MLA with no page numbers
Poems from sources such as websites may not have page numbers; in such a case, just mention the poet's name.6
Consecutive citations of the same poem
Include the author's name in the first citation alone. You can illustrate later citations with page numbers if available so long as the context is maintained in line with the poem.

How to cite a poem in MLA with numbered lines:

“Where does the sun go to when the moon arrives / What is night and day?” (Jane, lines 21-24).

How to cite a poem in MLA published on several pages:

“For all the days he went away / The children only saw his shadow / He stopped and smiled, and they ran off” (Anyika 127).7

How to cite a poem in MLA for consecutive citations

The third stanza begins with a loud voice commanding, “Come here at once, step into the enclave of my sorrows / Only the brave dare to breathe my air” (Foster, lines 12-14). The “obscurity of the wishes of men” (32) described in the upcoming lines can be viewed as the central pillar of the poem.

How to cite a poem in MLA – Works Cited entry

For poetry sources, use quotation marks to state the poem’s title preceded by the name of the poet. Use the various formats as follows:

Poem in a book

MLA format:
Last name of the Author, First Name. "Title of Poem." Book's Title, Publisher, Year of Publish, Page numbers(s)
MLA Works Cited Entry:
Paulson, Allen. "Rainbow." Rainbow: Poetry 1986-1997, J. G. Mason, 2006, p.43.
MLA In-text citation:
(Paulson)

Poem in an anthology

How to cite a poem in MLA where a poem is included in an edited series:

Use the format above but include the editors’ names.

MLA format:
Last name of the Author, First Name. "Title of Poem." Book's Title, edited by First name of Editor, Last name, Year of Publish, Page numbers(s).
MLA Works Cited Entry
Fincher, David. "The Golden Hawk." The Book of Modern Poems, edited by Peter Drury and Simon Stein, Kiwi Books, 1976, pp. 145-167.
MLA in-text citation:
(Fincher 146)

Poem on a website

For poems sourced from websites, state the website’s name and URL. Include the date of publishing if it is known, or use the date of access if you can’t find the publishing date.

MLA format:
Last name of author, First name. "Title of Poem." Original year of publication. Name of Website, Day Month Year, URL.
MLA Works Cited entry:
Fincher, David. "A Nightmare in The Sea." 1964. Voices of Poetry, www.voicesofpoetry,org/catalogue/45657/a-nightmare-in-the-sea. Accessed 12 April 2012.
MLA in-text citation:
(Fincher)8

FAQs

Poems are cited in MLA style by including details such as the poet’s name, publication date, and the source’s name. There are several rules when citing poems from books, websites, and other sources.

A block quote is a quotation of more than 4 lines in a poetry source. It is introduced by a sentence and is usually indented from the margin.

Line numbers should be written for in-text poem citations. Use the introductory word “line” to illustrate the line number.

You should not count the lines manually where lines don’t have numbering. State the page numbers instead.

Sources

1 Purdue Writing Lab.”MLA Formatting Quotations.” Purdue University. Accessed January 3, 2022. https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/research_and_citation/mla_style/mla_formatting_and_style_guide/mla_formatting_quotations.html.

2 Turney, Grace. “How to Cite a Poem in MLA.” EasyBib. May 18, 2021. https://www.easybib.com/guides/citation-guides/how-do-i-cite-a/poem/.

3 Betts, Jennifer. “Tips on Citing a Poem in MLA Style.” Bibliography.com. Accessed January 3, 2022.  https://www.bibliography.com/how-to/tips-on-citing-a-poem-in-mla-style/.

4 University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. “Citing Poetry In MLA Style.” September 15, 2022. https://irsc.libguides.com/mla/citingpoetry.

5 Columbia College. “MLA Citation Guide (9th Edition): Poetry.” December 12, 2022. https://columbiacollege-ca.libguides.com/MLA9/poetry.

6 MLA Style Center. “How do I cite an online poem with no line numbers?” December 15, 2020. https://style.mla.org/web-site-poem-no-line-numbers/.

7 University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. “MLA Style.” August 18, 2021. https://libguides.uww.edu/mla/intext.

8 Spirko, Jennifer. “How to Cite Poems Found Online in MLA Style.” Pen & the Pad. Accessed January 3, 2022. https://penandthepad.com/cite-poems-found-online-mla-style-2115.html.