Different style sheets (MLA, Chicago, etc.) have different conventions for quoting in literary essays. Normally I am tolerant of variations, but many students do not seem aware of some features shared by all for quoting poetry. Please follow the guidelines below (and your other professors will appreciate it if you do this in other classes).
Cite page numbers for prose and line numbers for poetry. If you are quoting a poem translated into prose, cite line numbers if possible; otherwise cite page numbers. If you aren't sure about the difference between poetry and prose, click here.
If you are citing The Canterbury Tales from The Riverside Chaucer, you may replace the name of the tale with the fragment number. Hence you may cite line 1 of the Knight's Tale as "(Knight's Tale, 1)" or as "(I.859)" (that is, line 859 of Fragment I).
When citing poetry indicate the line breaks you find in the edition you are quoting from. Do not cite the text as continuous prose.
If you are quoting under four lines of poetry, indicate the line breaks with "/". Here is an example from an essay on Chaucer:
[Chaucer's] images are simple and direct. They are for the most part introduced with nothing more than a "like to", or "as", and cover all phases of human activity, and make their effect by their homely and immediate appeal. The bells on the Monk's bridle ring "in a whistlynge wynd als cleere, / And eek as loude as dooth the chapel belle" (General Prologue, 170-171).
Remember to separate the "/" from any other text or punctuation with spaces on either side.
If your quotation is longer than four lines, you must indicate line breaks as they are printed in the text from which you are quoting--without slashes. The quotation must be indented and formatted as described below.
If your quotation consists of four or more lines or prose or poetry, follow the guidelines below:
- Separate the quotation from the main text of your essay by indenting it. You may single space the quotation, but do not centre the text and do not change the font.
- The indentation indicates that the text is a quotation; you do not need quotations marks. However, if the quotation contains but does not consist entirely of dialogue, use quotation marks for the dialogue portions of the quotation.
- You must indicate the line breaks in poetry as they are printed in the text from which you are quoting. Do not use slashes.
Here are two examples:
The arming scene calls our attention to the difficulties of judging Gawain's actions. Hollis nicely states the problem:
The poem itself prompts us to ask questions about the process involved in Gawain's action. The arming scene, in its interpretation of the pentangle symbol, presents us with an apparently perfect hero, one whose virtues are so preeminent and so tightly integrated that it appears impossible for evil to find entry (619-65, esp. 656-61). How, then, does it happen that, much as Gawain and the Green Knight differ in their judgement, Gawain acts in such a way that both agree he has fallen short of perfection? (1)
It is thus important to consider in what ways Gawain considers himself to have failed. Gawain makes four attempts to explain his failing, each quite distinct in kind. His initial reaction to the Green Knight's revelation is to regard his action in terms of specific vices causing the destruction of virtue:
"Corsed worth cowarddyse and couetyse bothe!
In yow is vylany and vyse that vertue disstryez."
Thenne he ka3t to the knot, and the kest lawsez,
Brayde brothely the belt to the burne seluen"
"Lo! ther the falssyng, foule mot his falle!" (2374-84)
Gawain's account of his behaviour here is reminiscent of the action of a morality play.
Here is an example without any dialogue:
First we may take his work in rhyme royal and look at a passage in which a sense of considerable emotion has to be conveyed:
The lyf so short, the craft so long to lerne,
Th'assay so hard, so sharp the conquerynge,
The dredful joye, alwey that slit so yerne:
Al this mene I by Love, that my felynge
Astonyeth with his wonderful werkynge
So sore iwis, that whan I on hym thynke,
Nat wot I wel where that I flete or synke. (The Parliament of Fowls, ll. 1-7)
Now while it is true, as Professor Manly points out that his passage in an example of the rhetorical method of beginning a poem with a sententia, it is even more important to observe how Chaucer has given the bare idea a life and emotion of his own.
Commas before Quotations
Comma placement before a quotation also causes people trouble. Notice that in 'The bells on the Monk's bridle ring "in a whistlynge wynd als cleere…"' there is no comma after "ring" and before the beginning of the quote? This is because the quotation works grammatically in the sentence. In this case, the first letter of the quotation should be lower case (unless the first word is a proper noun). With shorter quotations you should attempt to do this wherever possible on stylistic grounds. Here are some examples of quotations integrated into the grammar of the sentence.
The next step is his alliance with covetousness -- he identifies himself with a vice, forsaking his true nature to become "fawty and falce" (2382).
Gawain has very good reasons besides modesty to decline the Lady's offer to "take the toruayle to myself to trwluf expoun" (1540).
The Lady of the Castle appeals to Gawain's "manhod" when she reminds him that he is "stif innoghe to constrayne wyth strenkthe" (1497).
Putter argues that "the poet's commitment to ideals of courtoisie, the high standards of refinement and delicacy imperative at court, inevitably entails emphasis on coarseness and locus to which it is intrinsic" (47-48).
Both versions introduce Tom Bombadil without further explanation as "a merry fellow" (646). Both also give Tom four adventures, or encounters with malignant powers.
Eomer says that "wanderers in the Riddermark would be wise to be less haughty in these days of doubt" (645-55).
Shippey argues that "Tolkien knew (none better) that dwarf-names he had used in The Hobbit came from Old Norse" (55).
If you are quoting dialogue, or a statement made by an author, and you are drawing attention to it as a statement, a comma normally precedes the quote. This almost always comes after a verb like "says", "asks", "responds", "states", "screams", etc. In these instances, the quotation begins with a capital letter. Consider the following examples:
At the end of the first part of the Knight's Tale, Chaucer asks, "Who hath the worse, Arcite or Palamoun?" (Knight's Tale, 1348).
The narrator's own summing up is, indeed, a slightly tempered view of the absolute perfection put forward in 632-35. Hearing the Green Knight's challenge, Arthur responds, "Sir cortays knyght, / If thou crave batayl bare, / Here faylez thou not to fyght" (276-78).
He says, "This pure fyue / Were harder happed on that hathel then on any other" (645-55).
According to Putter, "The great Ricardian poets bequeathed to modern criticism a suspicion about the literary seriousness of Arthurian romance" (1).
Both versions introduce Tom Bombadil without further explanation: "Old Tom Bombadil was a merry fellow; / bright blue his jacket was, and his boots were yellow" (646). Both also give Tom four adventures, or encounters with malignant powers.
Eomer says, "Wanderers in the Riddermark would be wise to be less haughty in these days of doubt" (645-55).
According to Shippey, "Tolkien knew (none better) that dwarf-names he had used in The Hobbit came from Old Norse" (55).
When you include a quotation to illustrate a point you have made, the quotation should be followed by an explanation of how the material in the quotation illustrates your point.
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Last Update: 20 March, 2003
Formatting direct quotations is an entire art when it comes to writing a school or college essay. MLA writing style is the simplest, but you still have to know how to add citations properly, especially when talking about the poem. The poem is something different from prose by its nature. Thus, the formatting rules are a bit different. We recommend citing a poem in MLA style.
First, a student has to realize why it is crucial to quote a poetry. Often, various essays are assigned to the students of English Literature or Arts class:
- Critical thinking
- Compare & contrast
You may first read about the best ways to get ready with your homework as fast as possible.
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Reasons to Cite Quotes from Poem
To prove your words and the fact that you have read the story, it is critical to insert direct and indirect quotes from the selected MLA poem. To cite means to apply exact words of the discussed authors in your academic essay. Under the MLA writing style, a student should develop quotations in various ways. It all depends on the length.
- Short quotations from poetry include less than 3 lines (for prose, 4 lines are used). Example from Edgar Allan Poe is:
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
Tis some visitor,' I muttered, `tapping at my chamber door -
Only this, and nothing more
- Long quotations have to be more than 3 lines of the literary piece (or 4 lines of prose). You will have to cite multiple paragraph quotes. The example of such quote to cite may be the lines by DeFord:
The broken hearts of yesterday
But wait, be still, don't lose this way
Affection now, for what you guess
May be something more, could be less
Accept my love, live for today.
Moreover, students may sometimes need to insert in-text direct citations to explain or omit words that play no role. Thus, students are not encouraged to cite unnecessary parts.
Without proper research skills, you won't be able to choose the most proper texts to quote, so perfect your research capabilities using these tips.
Format Your Title Properly
Sure thing, it is necessary to start citing a poem correctly from its title. Sometimes quotation marks are used instead of italics. But which way should you choose?
Well, this decision depends on the size of the piece. If you need to cite a short poem, do it this way:
- "Be Proud of Who You Are"
- "Our Brothers"
- "Life's Own Battle"
Longer poems have to be cited in italics. Let's have a look at several examples:
- Tape for the Turn of the Year
- The Sea and the Mirror
- The Age of Anxiety
The titles of short literary pieces are always put in quotation marks. As for the long poems, as you have noticed, their titles are written in italics.
For more ideas on writing an essay, turn to this article.
How to Cite a Poem in MLA?
Working on MLA poem is the simplest task you can picture as it does not require too much time. Instead of reading lengthy manuals, keep to these short guidelines.
- Each time you cite a quotation from a poetry (it can be several words or the whole paragraph), place the citations off with quotation marks around them. Insert parentheses to quote exact words of the author. Always leave punctuation marks like period or comma outside the end parenthesis. The number next to the citation corresponds to the number of the specific line.
"According the lyrics of the author, "and every fair from fair sometime declines" (7).
- If you decide to quote lines that follow each other, type in a virgule (/) to define where the chosen lines "divide". In parenthesis, provide the first and last name of the author, breaking them apart with the help of a hyphen.
- In case you should include more than 4 consecutive lines, apply "long quotation"; or so-called blockquote. Print a short signal phrase in the introduction of your quote; indent it two times; double space; leave punctuation marks the way they appear in the original text.
- Other elements of formatting appear the way you would cite a prose with the rights reserved.
- Whatever you quote, always proofread and edit the way you cited quotations if necessary.
How to Cite Short Direct Quotations from Poems in MLA?
Before writing, one has to learn the basic rules of the corresponding format when citing a poem. You may have a look at the valuable example or find a good book dedicated to academic writing styles. Sure thing, you must read the poetry as well. Otherwise, you won't know which parts have to be chosen for your essay and quoted properly.
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Before you cite a poem, pay attention to how long the selected quotes are to identify their type. As it was said above, short quotes from poetry are those that involve less than three lines of text. Make sure you obey these rules when you decide to cite a quotation from poetry in English paper:
- Apply quotation marks to the direct quote from the chosen literary piece
- Mention the author's initial name, full title (in case of missing author), and page number or line number
- Locate punctuation after the parenthetical quotation
- Add questions or exclamation marks that belong to the citation inside the quotation marks. Leave them outside in case it does not belong to the original writer's words.
- Don't forget about the full reference to the source on the Bibliography page at the end of your MLA essay.
Let's Have a Look at a Sample
Replace breaks with a "/," insert a space before and after the slash mark. Mind that the line of the poem is applied instead of the page number for the parenthetical quotation. The only exception is a work being cited in a secondary source. Capitalize every line of verse intact after the slash mark.
In Adrienne Rich's "Aunt Jennifer's Tigers," Rich says that"Uncle's wedding
band / Sits heavily upon Aunt Jennifer's hand" (7-8). The band evidently is a
sign of the oppression.
Another example is:As he mentioned, "till the leaves went whirling with him / Till the dust and wind together / Swept in eddies round about him" (10-12).
When you cite a poem, you should provide the line numbers only in case your source shares them, in parentheses, just after the ending quotation marks and before the final punctuation.
You can find even more poem's quotations samples online!
How to Cite Long Direct Quotations from Poems in MLA?
If you need to quote a longer part (more than three lines of verse), here are the steps to applying MLA style properly in such case.
- It is recommended to use a free-standing block of text (k.a. block quote)
- Skip quotation marks
- Begin to quote directly from a new line
- Indent the first word of each paragraph only if you have to quote several paragraphs
- Apply double-space in the quote
- Involve parenthetical citation which will follow after the final punctuation
Emily Dickinson concludes "I'm Nobody! Who Are You?" with a characteristically bittersweet stanza:
How dreary to be somebody!
How public, like a frog
To tell your name the livelong June
To an admiring bog! (5-8)
He celebrated his triumph as quoted in these lines of the poem:
he brought in triumph back the beauteous dame,
With whom her sister, fair Emilia, came.
With honour to his home let Theseus ride,
With Love to friend, and Fortune for his guide (9-12).
Other Rules of Citing Poems
The Golden Rule number one states: if the students quote a poem, they must add valuable feedback or comments to explain why particular lines were chosen to share. It is necessary to inform the reader what you make of this specific quote and why it is important in the context of your essay topic.
You can mix quotations into the sentences of your own. They don't have to be added unless you get your reader ready for them. The best way to do so is shown in the example below:
Alexander Pope's pastoral episode is determined by grief and deep depression, due to the fact that spectator, who is asked to "see gloomy clouds obscure the cheerful day' (5), is present at the funeral.
Make in-text citations of MLA poem using ellipses to point the space which included words you decided to skip. There are many examples like 'on the... different shores of the Dream" (23). Each time you make tiny adjustments to grammar, type in brackets (example: The speaker states that "Darkling [he listens]" (51).).
How to Cite a Poem - Final Recommendations
Apply 3-spaced period to highlight omissions. It does not matter whether the quote is long or really short, a student has to modify some of the given information in it to fit the sentence requirements. Skip anything from the poem quotation which sounds insignificant for your main idea. It is simple to exclude unnecessary parts: indicate such parts with 3-spaced periods (...).
Add square brackets in order to include your own interpretations within citations. If you insert words of your authorship to integrate the cited part into your train of discourse or to interpret words that might be ambiguous, paste square-shaped brackets around these words.
Remember: you should not overload your text with quotations from the discussed poem. Quote the words of others without getting too enthusiastic. Direct citations have to occupy only a small part of your entire essay. Paraphrasing or rewriting some words from the poem is a better way to recall certain episodes. Still, poem quotation is one of the best methods to prove you've really read the text.
If you experience difficulties when you add quotes from the chosen poems, you may find something even more effective than examples found on the web. No more need to read thick manuals with guidelines on specific formats with our professional academic writing and formatting website by your side. We can handle any poetry to win an A+ mark for you - just place your order today!
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