Poems can be tricky to cite in the text of an essay, because poetry has a few subtle rules for quoting and citing in-text that separate it from other forms of literature. Proper citation is not only important for fostering reader comprehension, but also for establishing the credibility of the essay and author as well. Learning to cite poetry properly will ensure that your credibility remains intact and your readers know exactly what is being discussed.
Quote three lines or less of a poem by using quotation marks. Use a slash to mark breaks between lines. Include the line numbers in parentheses after the quotation. For example, three lines of a poem would be cited as follows: “A little seed, which sown in English ground/ Did wondrous snow of starry blossoms bear/ And spread rich odours through our spring-tide air” (20-21).
Block indent quotes containing four or more lines of poetry ten spaces on the left margin. Such a citation would look like the following: To that gaunt House of Art which lacks for naught Of all the great things men have saved from Time, The withered body of a girl was brought Dead ere the world's glad youth had touched its prime. (14-16)
Add ellipses in the middle of lines where there is missing text, as in the following example: “While the hot sun blazed…/ A cooling wind crept from the land of snows” (18).
List the line numbers in parentheses of single words or phrases from a poem, such as: “Oscar Wilde relies on dark imagery such as “withered” (1), “dead” (1), “pale” (3) and “death” (5).
Quote single words within poems by including the line numbers at the end of the sentence. For instance: “Wilde uses words such as “death” to invoke dark imagery (5).”
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- Cite line numbers instead of page numbers.
- Keep line breaks intact.
- Use an indent instead of ellipses when starting a quote mid line.
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