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I'm trying to figure out whether I need to cite these poems or not.

“Out, Out—” has its morbid description of a young boy bleeding out and its underlying theme of death. “Nothing Gold Can Stay” has its pessimistic theme that nothing beautiful can stay beautiful.

I speak so generally that I

  1. Have no idea if it's ethical or not to exclude citation

  2. What I would cite were I to. Generally you cite poems by line numbers. If one were to cite a poem based on a description of its theme, doesn't that encompass the entire poem? This has more to do with the in-text citation part.

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In general, citations are pretty much required any time you use or reference someone else's work in a scholarly or academic paper. If you're writing a popular article, then it's far more questionable.

In this case, I would certainly include citations. A citation serves two purposes: 1. It acknowledges that a work is not your own, so that you are not claiming credit for someone else's work. And 2. It gives the reader sufficient information to find the original and read it for himself. In this case, if you're discussing a poem, it is unlikely that people would think you had written the poem yourself. But they might very well want to look up the original and read it in its entirely, they might want to see other poems in the same collection for comparison, etc.

In this case, if you are discussing the poem in its entirely, then there's no meaning in giving line numbers. Just reference the entire poem.

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“Out, Out—” has its morbid description of a young boy bleeding out and its underlying theme of death. “Nothing Gold Can Stay” has its pessimistic theme that nothing beautiful can stay beautiful.

If the text you have included within the quotation marks above are merely the poems' titles (which I assume they are), then according to MLA you would write the in-text citation as follows:

Out, Out— (Author) has its morbid description.... etc.

N.B. titles need to be italicized, but lines of poetry need to be contained within quote marks.

Have a look at this MLA style guide too.

Hope that helps.

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