How To Write Poems In An Essay

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Using literary quotations

Use the guidelines below to learn how to use literary quotations.


 

For further information, check out Quoting, Paraphrasing, and Acknowledging Sources, or you may wish to see when the Writing Center is next offering its workshop entitled Intro to Literary Analysis.

Incorporating Quotations

  • As you choose quotations for a literary analysis, remember the purpose of quoting.

  • Your paper develops an argument about what the author of the text is doing--how the text "works."

  • You use quotations to support this argument; that is, you select, present, and discuss material from the text specifically to "prove" your point--to make your case--in much the same way a lawyer brings evidence before a jury.

  • Quoting for any other purpose is counterproductive.

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Punctuating and Indenting Quotations

For the most part, you must reproduce the spelling, capitalization, and internal punctuation of the original exactly.

The following alterations are acceptable:

Changing the closing punctuation

You may alter the closing punctuation of a quotation in order to incorporate it into a sentence of your own:

"Books are not life," Lawrence emphasized.

Commas and periods go inside the closing quotation marks; the other punctuation marks go outside.

Lawrence insisted that books "are not life"; however, he wrote exultantly about the power of the novel.

Why does Lawrence need to point out that "Books are not life"?

Using the slash when quoting poetry

When quoting lines of poetry up to three lines long (which are not indented, see Indenting quotations), separate one line of poetry from another with a slash mark (see examples in Incorporating Quotations into Sentences).

Using Ellipsis Points for Omitted Material

If for the sake of brevity you wish to omit material from a quoted passage, use ellipsis points (three spaced periods) to indicate the omission.

(See this sample paragraph. The writer quoted only those portions of the original sentences that related to the point of the analysis.)

Using Square Brackets when Altering Material

When quoting, you may alter grammatical forms such as the tense of a verb or the person of a pronoun so that the quotation conforms grammatically to your own prose; indicate these alterations by placing square brackets around the changed form.

In the following quotation "her" replaces the "your" of the original so that the quote fits the point of view of the paper (third person):

When he hears Cordelia's answer, Lear seems surprised, but not dumbfounded. He advises her to "mend [her] speech a little." He had expected her to praise him the most; but compared to her sisters', her remarks seem almost insulting (1.1.95).

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Indenting Quotations

Prose or verse quotations less than four lines long are not indented. For quotations of this length, use the patterns described above.

Indent "longer" quotations in a block about ten spaces in from the left margin; when a quotation is indented, quotation marks are not used.

The MLA Handbook (1995) recommends that indented quotations be double-spaced, but many instructors prefer them single-spaced. The meaning of "longer" varies slightly from one style system to another, but a general rule is to indent quotations that are more than two (or three) lines of verse or three (or four) lines of prose.

Indent dialogue between characters in a play. Place the speaker's name before the speech quoted:

CAESAR: Et tu, Brute! Then, fall, Caesar!

CINNA: Liberty! Freedom! Tyranny is dead! (3.1.77-78)

For more information see Quoting, Paraphrasing, and Acknowledging Sources - How to Quote a Source.

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Emphasizing Your Ideas

What to include in literary analysis

Take a look at this sample paragraph. It includes 3 basic kinds of materials:

  1. statements expressing the student's own ideas about the relationship Woolf is creating;

  2. data or evidence from the text in summarized, paraphrased, and quoted form; and

  3. discussion of how the data support the writer's interpretation.

The quotations are used in accordance with the writer's purpose, i.e. to show how the development of Mrs. Ramsey's feelings indicates something about her personality.

Should I quote?

Quoting is only one of several ways to present textual material as evidence.

You can also refer to textual data, summarize, and paraphrase. You will often want merely to refer or point to passages (as in the third sentence in the sample paragraph) that contribute to your argument.

In other cases you will want to paraphrase, i.e. "translate" the original into your own words, again instead of quoting. Summarize or paraphrase when it is not so much the language of the text that justifies your position, but the substance or content.

Quote selectively

Similarly, after you have decided that you do want to use material in quoted form, quote only the portions of the text specifically relevant to your point.

Think of the text in terms of units--words, phrases, sentences, and groups of sentences (paragraphs, stanzas)--and use only the units you need.

If it is particular words or phrases that "prove" your point, you do not need to quote the sentences they appear in; rather, incorporate the words and phrases into sentences expressing your own ideas.

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Maintaining Clarity and Readability

Introduce your quotations

Introduce a quotation either by indicating what it is intended to show or by naming its source, or both.

For non-narrative poetry, it's customary to attribute quotations to "the speaker"; for a story with a narrator, to "the narrator."

For plays, novels, and other works with characters, identify characters as you quote them.

Do not use two quotations in a row, without intervening material of your own.

For further information see Quoting, Paraphrasing, and Acknowledging Sources - How to Quote a Source.

Pay attention to verb tense

Tense is a tricky issue. It's customary in literary analysis to use the present tense; it is at the present time that you (and your reader) are looking at the text.

But events in a narrative or drama take place in a time sequence. You will often need to use a past tense to refer to events that took place before the moment you are presently discussing:

When he hears Cordelia's answer, Lear seems surprised, but not dumbfounded. He advises her to "mend [her] speech a little." He had expected her to praise him the most; but compared to her sisters', her remarks seem almost insulting (1.1.95).

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Documenting Quotations

Follow your course instructor's guidelines for documenting sources. If your instructor hasn't told you which system to use to document sources, ask.

Keep in mind that when you are writing a paper about the same text and quoting from the same edition that everyone else in the class is, instructors will often allow you to use informal documentation. In this case just include the page number in parentheses after the quotation or reference to the text. To be sure, though, you should ask your course instructor.

The documentation style used in this pages is that presented in the 1995 MLA Handbook, but other style systems are commonly used. The Writing Center has information about the rules of documentation in general and about a number of the most common systems, such as APA, APSA, CBE, Chicago/Turabian, MLA, and Numbered References.

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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:

  1. Descriptive
  2. Reflective
  3. Critical thinking
  4. Argumentative
  5. 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.

  1. 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

  1. 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"
  • "Forever"
  • "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.

  1. 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).

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Other elements of formatting appear the way you would cite a prose with the rights reserved.
  4. 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

Sample 1:

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)

Sample 2:

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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