I have still not very well understood the site rules, and there is no guide. Since poetry is inherently vague (it might even be desired), is it "non-constructive" or "not considered a good question" to ask for an interpretation of a specific poem? (I have roughly browsed recent questions.)

OP edits: Thank you for reopening. I am sorry to rewrite this question substantially, but initially I did not expressed well. So, poems are on topic. But what kind of questions? Can one ask the possible meaning of a certain line, or the overall context of a poem is according to your interpretation, or the symbolism a certain keyword....

These questions are related, and it is often not easy to make a clear cut between them... When a possible context is pointed out, the confusion might be automatically resolved.

Indeed, a reader is often "overall confused" by a poem, but asking a specific word or line might lose the overall picture. When a reader does not make sense of a poem, he/she does not even know what to ask. "What does that mean" is too broad, but "What does that word mean" is too narrow. Neither do I insist a complete free of restriction, but the line must be decided by the community.

  • Possible duplicate of Are songs and poems on-topic?
    – Benjamin
    Feb 17, 2017 at 11:05
  • @Benjamin I think this question is more about whether asking for interpretation is on-topic than whether poems are on-topic. Voting to leave open.
    – Rand al'Thor Mod
    Feb 18, 2017 at 10:39
  • Thank you for letting me take a second thought. Now, the way I have edited it and rephrased it, do you think the question is a genuine one? Feb 18, 2017 at 11:10
  • @Aminopterin I never questioned your genuineness, but I know see the difference, but I prefer the previous question.
    – Benjamin
    Feb 18, 2017 at 16:49

2 Answers 2


Yes, they are on topic.

We have several questions like this already.

See What circumstances is Bachchan referring to in this poem?, What is the meaning of "To Autumn"?, and other such questions.

Please tag your questions about poems with , and the title and author.


See Are songs and poems on-topic?.

Edited after the OP edit.

A question about the interpretation of the entire poem is perfectly fine - see prior examples. A question about a specific paragraph, sentence, or word - all fine. They all fall under the poetry analysis umbrella.

  • 1
    You might also consider the symbolism or meaning tags, depending on the exact nature of your question.
    – Rand al'Thor Mod
    Feb 13, 2017 at 11:06

Advice for posting questions about general interpretation of poems.

  1. Short poems are best, but if you want to ask about a long poem, choose a short extract to ask about: no more than a few tens of lines. No-one’s going to be able to interpret Paradise Lost in a Stack Exchange answer!

  2. Quote the whole poem (or chosen extract) if it’s out of copyright and short enough; otherwise quote the first few lines and link to the remainder. Format poetry by putting two spaces at the end of each line to force a line break.

  3. Explain that you’re asking for general (open-ended, wide-ranging) interpretation, and tag the question with , , and the name of the poet.

  4. Give prompts, if you can, to help people get started. Are there words or lines that you find difficult to understand? Are there references that you don’t follow? If there are, ask about them.

Example question below the line.

Mary Wroth’s sonnet 44 from “Pamphilia to Amphilanthus”

Here’s sonnet number 44 from Mary Wroth’s sequence Pamphilia to Amphilanthus, first published in 1621, with spelling and punctuation modernized.

How fast thou hastest (O Spring) with sweetest speed
      To catch thy water which before are run,
      And of the greater rivers welcome won,
Ere these thy new-born streams these places feed,
Yet you do well lest staying here might breed
      Dangerous floods your sweetest banks t’ o’er-run,
      And yet much better my distress to shun
Which makes my tears your swiftest course succeed,
But best you do when with so hasty flight,
      You fly my ills which now my self outgo,
      Whose broken heart can testify such woe,
That so o’ercharged my life blood wasteth quite
Sweet spring then keep your way, be never spent
And my ill days, or griefs asunder rent.

This is tagged so I’m looking for interpretation of any aspects of this poem, but I have some questions you might start with:

Is there a conceit in which the spring represents something, or is it just a spring? What are the senses of “succeed” and “quite”? Can you explain “griefs asunder rent”? What’s the overall message of the poem?

  • The inclusion of a veritable flotilla of specific questions, even though they are billed only as ones that answerers 'might start with', may tend to promote a 'tick list' response to those specifics rather than addressing the the work as a whole., or deter people who don't feel they can tick every item. I answered your Thomas Moore one in this format as a challenge to myself with no pre-existing knowledge of the work, What you got was the sum of my googling plus a brief summary. I felt i should hit each question, but I never went much beyond them.
    – Spagirl
    Feb 24, 2022 at 14:46
  • @Spagirl That's a fair comment -- do you have a suggested alternative approach? Feb 24, 2022 at 14:57
  • Alas, no. There may be something to explore in the idea of separating out 'reference' and 'interpretation'? So anything that relies on more than general knowledge needs to be teased out and the interpretation follows from that. But it may be unfair to expect people to post one question asking for the information base and then come back for interpretation once they have that, not least because of Rumsfeldian unknowns. How do you ask about something if you don't know that you don't know what it means because events are lost to common memory or word meanings have changed?
    – Spagirl
    Feb 24, 2022 at 15:05
  • 1
    I've trimmed the list of prompts anyway, maybe this version will be more suitable. Feb 24, 2022 at 15:26

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