Citation, Documentation of Sources

Q. Although CMOS is quite clear about the care one must take when quoting lyrics and poems that are still under copyright, I cannot find a single example of how to cite them once that care has been taken. Help a girl out? Muchas merci!

A. You’re facing two possible scenarios: (1) The owner of the copyright has given you formal permission to quote from a particular song or poem. In that case, they may specify the wording they want you to use when giving them credit. Such wording should be followed within reason (see CMOS 3.32). (2) You’re quoting no more than a word or two or simply mentioning or alluding to the song or poem or have otherwise determined that you don’t need permission (see CMOS 4.84–94). In that case, you simply cite the song or poem as you normally would.

A song can usually be mentioned in the text (with attribution) rather than formally cited; if you need something more formal, you’ll find examples at CMOS 14.263. A poem can likewise simply be mentioned in the text. But if it’s part of a collection (as in a book or on a website), cite the larger work. For example, you might mention “Still Life,” by Emma Hine, while citing Stay Safe (Louisville, KY: Sarabande Books, 2021)—the book of poems by Hine where that one is included.