• 3-minute read
  • 31st July 2019

How to Quote a Poem in APA Referencing

Many style guides have special rules for quoting poetry in an essay. In this post, for example, we will look at how to quote a poem using APA referencing. This will cover:

  1. How to present quoted verse on the page
  2. How to format in-text citations for a poem in APA referencing

If you are writing about poetry, then, make sure to follow the rules below.

How to Quote a Poem

The basic rules for quoting a line of poetry are the same as for quoting any other source. As such, to quote a poem, you should:

  • Place the quoted text within quotation marks.
  • Cite the author’s surname and year of publication in brackets.
  • If available, include a page number for the quoted passage.

Otherwise, a single line of poetry will look like any other quote.

If you’re quoting two lines from a poem, though, you will need to include a include a forward slash to show where the line break was in the original text. A two-line quotation would therefore look like this:

One of the most famous examples of nonsense poetry is “The Owl and the Pussy-Cat,” which begins thus: “The Owl and the Pussy-cat went to sea / In a beautiful pea-green boat” (Lear, 1871/1983, p. 34).

Here, we’re quoting the first two lines of an Edward Lear poem (we include two dates because this is a republished version of the original work). The page numbers in the citation, meanwhile, show us where this poem appears in the book.

Name a more iconic duo.
Name a more iconic duo.

Quoting Three or More Lines of Poetry

If you’re using more than two lines from a poem, present it as a block quote. Ideally, you will recreate the presentation of the lines on the page from the original source:

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The final stanza begins with an interspecies wedding:
“Dear Pig, are you willing to sell for one shilling
   Your ring?” Said the Piggy, “I will.”
So they took it away, and were married next day
   By the Turkey who lives on the hill. (Lear, 1871/1983, p. 34)

Here, for example, we indent the second and final lines more than the rest of the quote. This is because the original poem is presented in the same way.

Furthermore, as with any APA block quote, the citation here comes after the final punctuation in the quote, not before it.

Adding a Poem to an APA Reference List

Finally, if you quote a poem anywhere in your work, it should also appear in the reference list at the end of your document. The correct reference format to use, however, will depend on how the poem was published:

  • For long poems published as standalone works, use the standard book format. You can do this for anthologies with a single author, too, but make sure to name the editor as well as the author of the poems themselves.
  • List poems published in an anthology as chapters from an edited book (i.e., include details for both poem and container volume).
  • List a single poem found online as a web page.

Whatever their format, make sure to provide full publication information for all poems and their container volumes (i.e., the book or website where you found the poem). This will allow your reader to find them if required.

And if you need anyone to check your document for errors – including in citations and the reference list – don’t forget that we have expert academic proofreaders on hand and ready to help 24/7.

Comments (2)
20th April 2022 at 02:57
Thank you for the information. Question: I am including some footnotes at the end of most chapters in my book. I was going to footnote my block quotes too and then add the citation . Example: Fire walking can be dangerous but many people are able to walk on the hot coals and not get burned. Some researchers have wondered what it is that allows a fire walker to go without injury. One theory relates to the fact that certain fire walkers have grown up in a culture where fire walking is common and injuries are rare.*1 (Freeman, Fire Walking, Viking Publishers, 2014, p.28) Is it better to simply add the citation after the quote without any footnote number? In that case I can footnote some areas of the text that are not quotes and list those at the end of the chapter. With regard to the citations, they would be referenced in the bibliography at the end of the book, along with the references I placed at the end of each chapter in the notes. I hope this makes sense. What do you think?
    20th April 2022 at 09:51
    Hi, Sandy. Can you clarify what you're seeking advice on at all? If you're using APA-style references, then you don't need footnote citations at all (nor would you need the name of the book or publisher in your citations; please see here for a primer on the basics of APA-style citations, which usually just include the author's surname, year of publication, and a page number). In addition, APA would usually recommend having a single reference list at the end of the book. You could do individual reference lists at the end of each chapter if you prefer, but you wouldn't usually need both end-of-chapter reference lists and a separate bibliography (unless the bibliography was an 'Additional Reading' list of sources that may interest the reader but that aren't cited anywhere in the rest of the book). It's hard to offer more specific advice without knowing more about the document, though, so perhaps your best option would be to submit part or all of your manuscript for proofreading, whereupon a Proofed editor will be able to offer helpful feedback on your referencing and any other aspect of your writing you'd like help with.

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