I am writing historical fiction.

I am contemplating my character to compose a poem that was actually composed by someone in India, likely 1950s. This poet passed away in 2005.

How to attribute this in my novel? In other words, my novel should say this poem is from this actual poet, even though novel shows that fictional character penned it herself.

Would a footnote be acceptable?

2 Answers 2


First, I would check on copyright information. Look for the publisher and contact them and get permission. They may give you a preferred way to cite the author. If it is still under copyright, they may not want you to use it, but they may be fine.

If they don't have a preference for citation, I would probably put the information on a Notes or Acknowledgement page. It would give you room for providing more information and won't interrupt the flow for the reader, who would probably wonder why your novel has a footnote. I've seen this kind of material (where a poem may use a line from a song, for example) done on separate pages.

  • That's a good idea. Already I put footnote for another poem and it does look funky!
    – Marium
    Mar 3, 2020 at 14:54

What you should do is check the copyright info on the poem. If it is a really well known poem, then I think you can use it. Like in my book about global warming I used the quote, "Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing will get better, it will not." From Doctor Seuss. But make sure you say who the quote was from. If it isn't well known, look further into copy write info.

  • Oh yes, this is really well known poem. Especially in part of India where the historical events happened. Very very well known!
    – Marium
    Mar 3, 2020 at 14:52

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge that you have read and understand our privacy policy and code of conduct.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.