You might feel frustrated by the assignment, but you can at least take comfort in the knowledge that many students find it difficult to write about poetry. You can make the task that much simpler by choosing a poem you truly like or understand, or at least one you are able to interpret. This way, you'll be on surer footing as you analyze the poem and probe its deeper meaning. Whether you're writing an entire expository essay about a poem, or simply wish to refer to a poem to make a point in an essay on another topic, you'll need to know how to refer to the title of a poem in an essay.
Set Off the Poem
Place the title of the poem in quotation marks and set it off with commas -- following the example of the Modern Language Association, which dictates style for papers written about arts and humanities topics. Also, it serves as a courtesy to the reader to preface quoted material with a signal word, in this case, “poem.” By doing so, you ensure that your reader will not mistake the poem for a creative work of another type. A good, anticipatory example might look like this: “Widely hailed as a 'renaissance woman,' Maya Angelou widened her audience further when she read her poem, 'On the Pulse of Morning,' at Bill Clinton's inauguration on Jan. 20, 1993.” Place full quotation marks around your poem title.
Honor the Poet's Style
Follow the poet's rendition to the letter if you quote passages from a poem. Although the first letter of the first word of each line of poetry is often capitalized, it might not be, depending on the poet's writing style. Set off these passages by single-spacing them within your essay.
- Purdue University Online Writing Lab: Expository Essays
- Purdue University Online Writing Lab: Quotation Marks with Fiction, Poetry, and Titles
- Purdue University Online Writing Lab: Formatting
- The New St. Martin’s Handbook; Andrea Lunsford and Robert Connors; 1999
- The Scott, Foresman Handbook for Writers; Maxine Hairston and John Ruszkiewicz; 1991
- Photo Credit Intellistudies/iStock/Getty Images
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