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How to Quote and Cite Poetry

You will be required to quote and cite lines of poetry for both the Red Bird and Rose analyses. The grade for the poetry analyses will be partly determined by style and partly determined by your analysis of meaning. This PDF handout will focus on the importance of correct style.

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Paragraph Basics

In order to promote clarity, each paragraph must have a topic sentence that announces the main idea of the paragraph. For smooth flow, the beginning of the topic sentence should include a transitional phrase.

To promote unity (staying on topic), all paragraphs should present only ONE idea which is supported by facts, examples, statistics or illustrations, etc… Writing unified paragraphs helps both the writer and the reader to concentrate on one point at a time. Let no detail or example creep into your paragraph if it doesn’t support the one idea, or topic sentence.

A new paragraph should result if there is a shift of subject, idea, emphasis, speaker, time, or place. In other words, keep one idea per paragraph.

Introducing Quotes

Readers should be able to move from your own words to the words you quote from a source without feeling a jolt. So introduce all your quotes with signal phrases, usually including the author’s name, to prepare readers for the source:

According to ornithologist Jay Sheppard, “The bald eagle seems to have stabilized its population, at the very least, almost everywhere” (96).

Although the bald eagle is still listed as an endangered species, it “seems to have stabilized its population, at the very least, almost everywhere” (Sheppard 96).

To avoid monotony and excessive repetition, try to vary your signal phrases. Below is a list of appropriate phrases you can use to introduce a quote: acknowledges, adds, admits, agrees, argues, asserts, believes, claims, comments, compares, confirms, contends, declares, denies, disputes, emphasizes, endorses, grants, illustrates, implies, insists, notes, observes, points out, reasons, refutes, rejects, reports, responds, states, suggests, thinks, writes.

(Work Cited – Hacker, Diana. Instructor’s Edition: Rules for Writers. 5th ed. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2004.)

Introducing Lines of Verse *

Here are a few examples on h

ow to introduce lines of verse. (Source: WikiHow. Please visit the

webpage (link below) to read more about quoting and citing poetry):

Example: Robert Frost uses a variety of words and phrases such as “frozen” (7), “darkest

evening” (8), and “before I sleep” (15) to imply thoughts of solitude and the

desire to not return to his obligations.

Example: The notion of solitude appears in many notable poems including the famous

lines, “The woods are lovely, dark, and deep / But I have promises to keep / And

miles to go before I sleep” (Frost 13-15).

Example: Robert Frost writes about solitude and man’s relationship with nature:

Whose woods these are I think I know.

His house is in the village, though;

He will not see me stopping here

To watch his woods fill up with snow. (1-4)

Cite Your Quotes and Lines of Verse

Every time you borrow someone else’s ideas or words you MUST cite your source and give

credit to the original author. For citing lines of verse, please include the name of the poem in

your topic sentence, and then include the line numbers of the material you are quoting. The

use of quotation marks will depend on the number of lines you quote at one time. Please use

the above examples from WIKI HOW and the following examples from

as a

model for quoting and citing lines of verse.

Pellissippi State

Quoting Three Lines or Fewer **

When you are quoting three lines or fewer from a poem, you may incorporate the quotation into the body of your paragraph.

Tips for quoting up to three lines of poetry:

  •  Use slashes (/) to indicate line breaks within the poem
  •  Keep all punctuation intact as it appears in the poem
  •  Use quotation marks to denote the beginning and end of the quotation
If you have included the name of the poet elsewhere in your paper, do not include the poet’s name in your parenthetical citation. Instead, include the first significant word of the poem’s title, followed by the line number(s). This is especially important if you are quoting more than one poem by the same author in your paper.
Example:Eliot immediately engages the reader with his use of the second person in the opening lines: “Let us go then, you and I / When the evening is spread out against the sky” (“Prufrock” 1-2).However, if you have mentioned the title of the poem in the sentences immediately preceding you quotation, you can cite the line number only.Example:In his “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” Eliot immediately engages the reader with his use
of the second person in the opening lines: “Let us go then, you and I / When the evening is spread out against the sky” (1-2).
(Source: Pellissippi State – see link below)

Indent Quotations of Four or More Lines

These quotations should be indented 1 inch (2.5 cm) or 10 spaces from the left margin. Do not

add quotation marks for a long quote. Add the line numbers inside parentheses right after the

closing punctuation of the quotation. Do not put another comma after the in-text citation. Use

a colon after a complete sentence that introduces a quotation to avoid a comma splice.

(Source: WIKIHOW)

How to Analyze Poetry

Poetry comes from an oral tradition dating back to the songs of minstrels. The verse form may be lyrical or narrative. Narrative poetry (telling a story in rhythmic language) was probably the earliest form of one of humanity’s earliest arts. Verse containing rhyme and rhythm made it easier for both performer and audience to remember the songs/poems. Minstrels sang of historical and contemporary events, and were expected to deliver elevated narratives in inspiring language. The term lyrical refers broadly to a poem, sentence, or phrase that is a rhythmic and reflective way of stating something. Lyric Greek poetry is found in the work of Sappho, who lived in the early 6th century B.C.E. and who may have been the first poet on record to write about her personal feelings (the joys of love were her main subjects).

Figurative Language

Why is poetry so hard to understand? The figurative language (metaphor, symbolism, analogy) of poetry allows for the expression of deeper meanings. Shakespeare and Donne mastered the technique of conceit, an elaborate way of talking about something in terms of other things, suggesting to the reader more than one interpretation (the literal/concrete/physical vs. the hidden/abstract/symbolic/figurative).

Metaphor is a literary technique used to describe one object, situation or idea through an implicit (direct) comparison with another. In the below example, pay close attention to what is being compared:

Little boys lie still, awake, Wondering, wondering, Delicate little boxes of dust.

In order to create a visual picture of these little boys, the poet chose an image that the audience could easily visualize, in this case the delicate little boxes of dust. Imagine what a “delicate little box of dust” looks like. Then place that image onto the boys. Now visualize the boys. What is their life like? What do they look like? By comparing the boys to the boxes, the poet has placed a known subject (a box of dust) onto an unknown subject (these particular boys), making the unknown knowable to the audience.

A poet could also write a simile, a direct comparison using the words like or as. The simile is an explicit, stated comparison:

The child’s cry opens like a knife blade. I wandered lonely as a cloud.

Since poetry comes from an oral tradition, the sound of poetry influences tone, mood, and meaning. As you read poetry out loud, pay attention to the sounds of the letters and words. Soft-sounding letters (such as “o” sounds) will create a smooth, pleasant tone. Hard sounding letters (such as “c” or “k”) will create a harsh, tense mood. Alliteration is the repetition of the initial sound of words in a line of verse:

Blackbirds whistled and chirped near the barren church.

Sometimes alliteration includes both initial sounds and interior sounds as in blueberry. The repetition of the “b” sound is also an example of consonance. The repetition of vowel sounds within words or lines is called assonance, which creates a rhyme or a near-rhyme:

…and land so lightly
And roll back down the mound beside the hole.

In personification, an inanimate object is described as it it were human:

Driving past the fields, I could hear the soybeans breathing.

I bowed my head, and heard the sea far off Washing its hands.

Poets may use universal symbols to reveal a deeper meaning. For instance, the sun is a symbol of warmth/light/God, the return of spring as resurrection/rebirth, the bird as a symbol of spirit/freedom, the lion as an emblem of courage, the rose as an example of beauty/love. The use of color can also be symbolic. In Western culture, a poet may use dark, bleak images and colors to create a depressing or horrifying mood. Lighter, more “bright” colors and images may inspire or “brighten” a mood, or show a sense of enlightenment or wisdom. In other cultures, the opposite may hold true: bright/white may indicate a sterile, colorless environment, or a funeral procession! Darker images may indicate a sophisticated/created style or depth of character.

Basic Questions for Rhetorical Analysis

These following questions will help you, the reader, to pinpoint the poet’s intent and the possible meanings:

  •  What is the rhetorical situation (the situation/problem/conflict for the poem’s speaker)?
  •  Who is the speaker of the poem? (Don’t assume the poet is the speaker! You may choose

to view the speaker as you would a character in fiction.)

  •  What occasion or event (historical or personal) may have compelled the poet to write this poem? (Research the poet’s life and times.)
  •  What is the speaker’s intention? How does the speaker come across? Define the emotion or reason in the tone and word choices.
  •  Who is the intended audience? What values does the audience hold that the author or speaker appeals to?
  •  What is the relationship between the poem’s form and content? (Closely examine the stanza structure, line breaks, formatting, etc.)
  •  What does the style of the writing reveal about the culture that produced it? (Again, educate yourself on the poet’s life and times!)

Free Verse Poetry

At the turn of the 20th Century, artists demanded more freedom of expression; in a poetic sense, Modern and Contemporary Poets began to structure language as it suited their own needs. Free Verse poetry lacks a traditional system of measure; however, it is not without a certain sense of form and strategy. Poets began to choose line beginnings and endings to create specific meaning and feeling. Stanza breaks could serve as a device to create tension or to create a natural pause. Poets began to build toward the last line — to move us, startle us, give us sudden insight. Subjectivity increased, and by the 1950s and 60s, Beat and Confessionalist Poets turned to a style of emotional autobiography, shifting the role of audience from objective observer to personal confidant.

Consider how style and form creates meaning in the following free-verse poem by Charles Bukowski. Note how the line lengths and breaks reinforce the poem’s title, and carefully examine how the poet’s deliberate use of the lower case helps to convey tone and meaning:

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