How do I cite in my prose an untitled poem known by its number in a collection?
Note: This post relates to content in the eighth edition of the MLA Handbook. For up-to-date guidance, see the ninth edition of the MLA Handbook.
If you are citing an untitled poem known only by its number, a generic description of the poem can be substituted for the title in the works-cited list and in the in-text citation, if necessary. For instance, in an essay about Shakespeare’s sonnets, you might write the following:
Shakespeare’s sonnet 130 is an anti-Petrarchan poem, negating the conventions of love poetry Petrarch had made popular. It begins with an unflattering comparison: “My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun” (line 1).
Shakespeare, William. Sonnet 130. The Complete Sonnets and Poems, by Shakespeare, edited by Colin Burrow, Oxford UP, 2002, p. 641. Oxford Scholarly Editions Online, doi:10.1093/actrade/9780198184317.book.1.