Infographic showing two different interpretations of a line of poetry - one loving, one suspiciousJust one line of poetry can be understood in many different ways

Different readers can have completely different views about the same poem. When you offer your interpretation, you need to be able to say why you think as you do. That’s where quoting or referring to the text can help.

When using quotations from a poem, you need to:

  • choose your quotations carefully and keep them brief (a line or two at most is usually enough, but a word or phrase may also be fine)
  • fit it into the flow of your writing
  • explain what the quotation shows about the poet’s intentions
  • describe the effect the poet’s words have on the reader

Sometimes you’ll use a reference rather than a quotation. This means describing a particular part of the text, rather than writing an exact quote from it.