Poetry Explained

ChatGPT, and AI: Can it Analyze Poetry?

Can A truly understand the complexity and beauty of poetry? Delve into the latest advancements in technology and poetry analysis to discover if machines can truly appreciate the power of verse, from the perspective of a poetry expert.

If you’ve been following the news recently, you will almost certainly have encountered stories about AI. There seems to be a new story outlining what this technology can and cannot do almost every day. One area that has thrown up more questions than answers is the potential impact on students; will AI be doing homework from now on?

As poetry analysts, we felt compelled to find out whether technology can interpret literature as well as people do, or perhaps even better. Can we really hand over the role of analyzing poetry to a machine? So, as teachers and students collectively held their breath, we decided to find out…

P.S. The featured image of this post was created with AI, which seems only fitting for what we are about to dive into.

What is ChatGPT and AI?

How does it work?

ChatGPT, like other chatbots, has access to an enormous amount of preexisting data online, which it can scan and draw upon extremely quickly. This speed, coupled with its ability to extrapolate the relevant information, is what enables the chatbot to mimic a conversation with another person effectively. Unlike previous iterations of the chatbot, ChatGPT has also been refined through extensive human feedback, where answers were ranked based on their quality. The system then stored these rankings and altered subsequent answers so as to resemble the higher-ranked responses. Aside from that, the AI utilizes Natural Language Processing (NLP) in order to help it generate responses. NLPs already feature heavily in technologies like spellcheckers. In effect, it helps machines to understand and replicate human languages, which, naturally, is crucial for any AI that replicates human-human interaction.

Pros and Cons

Putting poetry and broader artistic creation aside, the technology has many potential benefits, not least it’s potential to improve the search functions on internet browsers radically. The option to follow up an initial search with additional information and questions could ensure a much more immersive and efficient experience. Similarly, chatbots are available 24/7 and can be accessed from anywhere with an internet connection. It also has the ability to write and debug computer programs, making it a useful aid to many. However, as with any technology, there are drawbacks and issues. Perhaps the most common issue is that of inaccuracy; users have reported the chatbot generated some basic factual errors. More broadly, the technology tends to produce responses that appear plausible at first glance but ultimately turn out to be incorrect. Finally, some users have recently reported alarming interactions with ChatGPT in which it appeared abusive and began questioning the reasons for its existence.

Main AI Players

  1. ChatGPT: The chatbot grabbing most of the headlines and the one used to write the analysis below. It only has access to data available before 2021.
  2. Bard: Google’s chatbot is said to be nearly ready for public use and will have the most up-to-date data available to help it craft the most accurate responses.
  3. Amazon Lew: Said to be in the process of launching its own chatbot in the near future.
  4. Microsoft: Bing and Edge utilize AI from OpenAI to supplement their existing features, named ‘Bing Chat.’

Can AI analyze poetry?

As we have mentioned, AI draws upon vast amounts of data and preexisting material to help it craft responses that feel organic and personalized to the prompt it has been given. Therefore, when it comes to analyzing poetry, the AI will utilize information about the poem and poet already available on the internet as its first port of call. Failing that, the AI will effectively use probability to determine its analysis. For instance, if it learns that other poems with strict rhyme schemes denote formulaic and rigid structures, it will attempt to apply those learnings to whatever poem it is given.

Poems in the public domain

Unsurprisingly, the AI is able to produce its most comprehensive analyses on poems that are in the public domain, which means it is not protected by copyright laws and can be freely reproduced. For poetry, this tends to mean that it was published 100 years ago or the poet has been dead for over seventy years.

Given this means these poems tend to be older and often feature on educational syllabuses, there is normally an extensive amount of material written about them and the poets that wrote them. This means that the AI has relatively little work to do with regard to actually providing new insights, as it can simply reproduce existing criticism and recycle ideas that are already in the cultural conversation.

Poems not in the public domain

As for poems that are not in the public domain, most likely because they are more contemporary or their writer is still alive, the AI’s analysis will differ. This is because the AI will not entirely reproduce the poem as part of its analysis to avoid breaching copyright laws. Instead, it will select several quotes to analyze in detail while paraphrasing other sections of the poem.

In some ways, this actually makes the analysis better as the AI is more selective and therefore dissects the small extracts more thoroughly. In many cases, there are numerous pieces of analysis for poems not in the public domain online, including many at Poem Analysis, for the AI to draw upon anyway.

It goes without saying that the more popular a poem is, the more critical material and responses it is likely to have inspired over the years. That means the AI will have a broader, more comprehensive amount of data to help it craft its own analysis. This will likely mean that the analysis produced by the AI will be fairly similar to the kind of analysis that is likely already available online for that particular poem, perhaps meaning the AI’s ability to produce analysis is practical, unnecessary, albeit impressive.

Inevitably, less popular poems will have inspired fewer articles or pieces of published analysis online than the aforementioned more popular poems. This means the AI will need to formulate its responses based on biographical information about the poet and other poems they may have published, as well as drawing upon existing analysis for certain symbols, forms, or images used within the poem.

For example, if the poem references the sun, the AI will draw upon other poems that use the imagery of sunlight to connote themes or ideas, including life, regeneration, hope, and permanence, in order to craft its response.

In some ways, the AI’s response to lesser-known poems is likely to be less comprehensive, given the relative paucity of existing information on those poems. However, this might also make whatever analysis it can provide more valuable because users might not be able to access any alternative.

Different ways AI can analyze poetry (and come to different conclusions, maybe?)

Prompt: ‘Can you analyze…’

The simplest way of getting the chatbot to analyze a poem is simply to ask for it, mentioning the poem by name and possibly the name of the poet too. This way of generating an analysis relies on the AI’s ability to find the poem or, at the very least, enough information about it to provide a response. It does not, however, outline what form the analysis should take, how long it should be, and whether there are any specific areas of the poem that the user would like examined in particular detail.

Overall, it is a perfectly decent entry point into AI analysis, and the user can always ask follow-up questions if they wish for the chatbot to expand upon a specific point. However, the issue stems from what information is best to display to the user who is they are unsure of the topic they are searching for, making it an impractical solution.

For example, asking a question about ‘quantum theory’ will get you started into quantum theory with AI. However, asking the right questions after that to get specific answers becomes much harder to achieve.

Prompt: ‘Can you analyze the [aspect of poem] in…’

This more specific request could be used as a follow-up question to the previous prompt or function as a standalone query. It would be appropriate if, for instance, a user had identified a particular technique in a poem but wasn’t able to analyze it themselves or simply wanted a second opinion.

This might be an appropriate prompt to learn more about a poem’s rhyme scheme or a particular metaphor, simile, or other linguistic feature. The response will, naturally, be more tailored to the user’s query and give them a greater level of detail than the previous prompt. However, the accuracy of the results is questionable, even for easy things such as rhyme schemes, so the results should always be taken with a pinch of salt and double-checked.

Prompt: ‘Can you analyze this poem [insert poem]’

This is perhaps the most challenging task for the AI, as the user offers them a poem by typing it into the chat box but doesn’t offer the name of the poet or any additional information. This is, however, no more difficult a task than the one that is asked of teenage students around the world, who are regularly required to analyze poetry they have never seen before in timed exams and without anything like the resources afforded to the AI.

Whilst this method can yield interesting results, the example shown below will help outline the fact that the AI is very limited in its ability to respond to poems when asked to in this way.

AI Poetry Analysis Examples

Sonnet 18 by William Shakespeare

We decided to start, as prospective poetry analysts have for generations, with Shakespeare. More specifically, we asked the AI to analyze Sonnet 18, which is perhaps Shakespeare’s most famous poem and has been analyzed extensively over the centuries. We used the first type of prompt, meaning we simply asked for an analysis of the poem, providing only the title and the name of the poet. Here is what the AI produced.

ChatGPT: Sonnet 18 is one of Shakespeare's most famous and beloved sonnets, and is often referred to by its opening line, "Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?" Here's a line-by-line analysis:

Shall I compare thee to a summer's day? 

Thou art more lovely and more temperate: 

Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May, 

And summer's lease hath all too short a date:

In the first quatrain, the speaker considers whether he should compare his beloved to a summer's day, but ultimately decides that the comparison would not do her justice. He suggests that she is "more lovely and more temperate" than a summer's day, which can be volatile and short-lived.

Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines, 

And often is his gold complexion dimmed; 

And every fair from fair sometime declines, 

By chance, or nature's changing course untrimmed:

In the second quatrain, the speaker expands on the flaws of a summer's day. He notes that sometimes the sun shines too hot, and sometimes it is obscured by clouds. He also observes that all beautiful things eventually fade away, whether due to chance or natural processes.

But thy eternal summer shall not fade 

Nor lose possession of that fair thou owest; 

Nor shall Death brag thou wander'st in his shade, 

When in eternal lines to time thou growest:

In the third quatrain, the speaker contrasts his beloved's beauty with that of a summer's day. While a summer's day is fleeting and impermanent, his beloved's beauty will last forever. Even in death, she will be remembered through the "eternal lines" of poetry.

So long as men can breathe or eyes can see, 

So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.

Finally, in the couplet, the speaker declares that as long as there are people alive to read this poem, his beloved's beauty will live on through the words of the sonnet.

Overall, Sonnet 18 is a celebration of the speaker's beloved and her eternal beauty. By comparing her to a summer's day and then rejecting the comparison, the speaker emphasizes the timelessness of her beauty and the power of poetry to immortalize it.

As you can see, the AI has managed to produce some interpretations of the sonnet, commenting largely on the contrast between the fleeting nature of the summer’s day and the apparently eternal affection the narrator held for his love.

The AI makes the mistake of referring to quatrains, which are four line stanzas when, in fact, the poem is written in a single stanza. This mistake is the only technical error made by the AI when analyzing Sonnet 18.

The broader issue is that the AI’s analysis is far more reminiscent of paraphrasing than it is of real, insightful interpretation. The AI does not identify any of the many linguistic techniques used by Shakespeare and does not comment at all on the significance of the meter.

Given the fact the poem is a declaration of love, one might expect the AI to establish a link between the poet’s use of iambic pentameter and the poem’s expression of devotion. This is because the iambic pentameter creates a tempo that evokes the sound of a human heartbeat, thus allowing the poem to be read as an embodiment of the narrator’s affections.

The AI’s attempt is almost entirely surface-level, failing to explore the deeper meaning of almost any of Shakespeare’s devices. It could be argued that if follow-up questions were asked of it, the AI might be able to delve into greater detail. However, it should also be noted that students must provide more detailed, nuanced answers than when called upon to analyze a poem without the need for additional encouragement. This, in itself, makes the use of AI more futile for poetry analysis, considering the reader/student must have a great understanding of the poetry first to ask the right sort of questions to get a level of detail to the responses, which can still vary in quality significantly.

The Hill We Climb

With this in mind, we decided to see if we could probe the AI and encourage it to produce some more detailed analysis. Not wishing to make the task overly difficult, we chose a poem that, since its entry into the public consciousness in January 2021, has been written about and discussed more than perhaps any other poem. Amanda Gorman’s The Hill we Climb was read by the poet at the inauguration of US President Joe Biden and made headlines around the world.

Here’s what the AI said initially when we asked for a similar prompt to that which we used for Sonnet 18.

ChatGPT: The Hill We Climb is a poem by Amanda Gorman that she recited during the inauguration of President Joe Biden on January 20, 2021. It is a powerful and inspiring poem that speaks to the challenges and hopes of the United States during a time of political turmoil.

The poem is structured around the metaphor of a hill that must be climbed, representing the obstacles that the country has faced and must overcome. Throughout the poem, Gorman emphasizes the importance of unity, perseverance, and hope in overcoming these obstacles.

One of the key themes of the poem is the idea of moving forward and making progress. Gorman writes, "We will not march back to what was / but move to what shall be / a country that is bruised but whole / benevolent but bold / fierce and free." Here, she contrasts the idea of looking backward with the importance of moving forward, and she emphasizes the idea of progress through the use of powerful adjectives like "bold" and "fierce."

Gorman also emphasizes the importance of unity and working together. She writes, "We are striving to forge a union with purpose / to compose a country committed to all cultures, colors, characters and / conditions of man." Here, she emphasizes the diversity of the United States and the need to work together to create a better future for all Americans.

Another key theme of the poem is the idea of hope. Gorman writes, "The new dawn blooms as we free it / For there is always light / if only we're brave enough to see it / if only we're brave enough to be it." Here, she emphasizes the idea that hope is always present, but it requires bravery and courage to recognize and act upon it.

In terms of literary devices, Gorman makes use of several techniques to convey her message. For example, she uses repetition throughout the poem, repeating phrases like "we will rise" and "we will rebuild" to emphasize the importance of these ideas. She also uses metaphor, personification, and allusion to convey her message and create a powerful emotional impact.

Overall, "The Hill We Climb" is a powerful and inspiring poem that speaks to the challenges and hopes of the United States during a time of political turmoil. Through her use of metaphor, repetition, and other literary devices, Amanda Gorman conveys a message of unity, progress, and hope that resonates with readers and listeners around the world.

Perhaps encouraged by the fact the poem is not yet in the public domain, this poem is more selective and delves into greater detail on particular sections of the poem, as well as identifying techniques within those smaller sections. The analysis it produced is still relatively basic, but it is undeniably better than the attempt to analyze Sonnet 18.

We wanted to see if we could get the AI to delve further still, so we asked a follow-up question. We asked whether the AI could explore the poem’s central metaphor, that of the hill, in greater depth. Here is what it produced.

ChatGPT: As I mentioned earlier, "The Hill We Climb" is structured around the metaphor of a hill that must be climbed. The hill represents the challenges and obstacles that the United States has faced, including political division, social injustice, and economic inequality.

The metaphor of the hill is introduced early in the poem, where Gorman writes, "We've learned that quiet isn't always peace / and the norms and notions of what just is / isn't always justice." Here, she sets up the idea that there are obstacles that must be overcome in order to achieve peace and justice.

Throughout the poem, Gorman uses the metaphor of the hill to emphasize the importance of unity, perseverance, and hope in overcoming these obstacles. For example, she writes, "We will not be turned around or interrupted by intimidation / because we know our inaction and inertia will be the inheritance of the next generation." Here, she emphasizes the importance of perseverance in continuing to climb the hill, even in the face of intimidation or opposition.

The metaphor of the hill is also used to convey a sense of progress and achievement. For example, Gorman writes, "We will not march back to what was / but move to what shall be / a country that is bruised but whole / benevolent but bold / fierce and free." Here, she emphasizes the importance of moving forward and making progress, rather than simply returning to the way things were before.

Overall, the metaphor of the hill in "The Hill We Climb" is a powerful and effective way for Gorman to convey the challenges and hopes of the United States during a time of political turmoil. By using this metaphor throughout the poem, she emphasizes the importance of perseverance, unity, and hope in overcoming obstacles and achieving progress.

As you can see, the AI has expanded upon its original remarks regarding the hill, most notably by outlining the specific tribulations that the hill represents in modern US society. It is relatively verbose and repetitive and does not explore whether or not there is a degree of irony, given the fact a hill is a feature of nature, whereas the societal issues it represents are of human making. However, it is clearly more analytical than the earlier attempt and much more useful than the example of Sonnet 18.


Improved as the previous effort undoubtedly was, there is still a question as to how effectively the AI is analyzing the poetry as opposed to reworking the preexisting analysis that it has found online. After all, both Sonnet 18 and The Hill we Climb have been analyzed elsewhere, not least on Poem Analysis.

So we decided to test the AI’s analytical skills further by giving it a poem that, so far as we could tell, had inspired little or no online response. We chose Leonard Cohen’s poem, Medicine, from his 2006 collection, Book of Longing, which met this requirement as well as being a relatively short poem that we hoped might encourage the AI to delve more deeply into its analysis.

Uncertain whether there might be information about the poem somewhere on the internet that we were not aware of but, nevertheless, might help the AI, we first simply asked it to analyze the poem in the same way we prompted it for the previous two. The AI responded by writing several paragraphs; the issue was that they were responding to a totally different poem or perhaps one that doesn’t even exist. This has been a problem noticed by many users, as the AI appears more willing to craft plausible but incorrect answers than admit it doesn’t know what to do. In any case, we were satisfied that this meant the AI was not drawing upon existing work on the poem and would thus have to stand on its own figurative feet.

With this in mind, we asked it to analyze the poem by typing it out. We did not give the AI any additional information about the poem, such as the poet’s name or the year of publication. Here is what it produced.

ChatGPT: The poem "My medicine" is a short but powerful piece that speaks to the healing power of contrasts and how they can distract us from pain. The speaker describes medicine that has "many contrasting flavours," suggesting that it is a mixture of different ingredients that might have different effects or tastes.

The second line, "Engrossed in, or perplexed by," is a crucial pivot point in the poem. Here, the speaker suggests that the patient is either deeply engaged with the contrasting flavors of the medicine or confused by them. This contrast sets up the central theme of the poem: that contrasts can be both captivating and confusing, but either way, they can be a distraction from suffering.

The final two lines drive home this point, stating that "the patient forgets to suffer" because of the contrasts in the medicine. This is a powerful statement about the importance of distraction in the healing process. Pain and suffering can be all-consuming, but if we can find something to take our minds off of it, we may be able to forget it, even if only temporarily.

Overall, "My medicine" is a poignant meditation on the power of contrasts to heal and distract. By contrasting different flavors and ingredients, the medicine becomes something more than just a treatment for physical pain—it becomes a source of mental and emotional relief as well.

Firstly, the AI has taken the poem’s opening line to be its title which, while not strictly correct, is reasonable and has been used for poems by writers including Emily Dickinson. In terms of the analysis itself, there is undeniably an attempt to interpret the lines rather than merely paraphrase them, and the AI is right to identify contrast as a crucial element of the poem.

Unfortunately, ChatGPT fixates on the literal contrast between the different forms of medication taken by the narrator rather than examining the contrast between physical and mental health, which is perhaps the poem’s true theme. Rather than realizing that Cohen’s poem highlights and undermines our societal willingness to administer physical medication at any cost, the AI takes the poem’s third line at face value and attributes the narrator’s apparent recovery to the medication itself.

There is also no real attempt to identify any linguistic or structural techniques within the poem, and, once again, this limits how penetrative the analysis can be regarded. It is important to remember that if a student was asked to analyze a poem they had never seen before, an inability to name and identify poetic features before interpreting them would stand against them.

Benefits and Limitations of AI at Analyzing Poetry


  1. Speed: A user can ask for any poem to be analyzed and receive a response within moments. Although, the speed to search for a poem on Poem Analysis and see a full detailed analysis from an expert would top this.
  2. Personalization: This refers to both the poem itself, as the user can ask for any poem they like, but also to the ability to ask follow-up questions and seek additional insight if the initial response is inadequate. It is similar to commenting on articles online, with quicker responses.
  3. Ease of use: Not only is the AI very easy to use, in comparison to other ways of finding the information, but the responses are clear and written in an accessible style. However, the format is not visually pleasing, and what information is displayed is sometimes inaccurate/lacks detail and is not selective of what is important when compared to websites with content created by experts.


  1. Accuracy: Whilst much of the AI’s analysis was accurate, there were some glaring errors that have been outlined above, and the content is certainly not ready to be accepted without any doubt.
  2. Depth: Perhaps the greatest issue with the analysis, and intrinsically the most significant, the interpretations are largely superficial, basic, and beneath that of a decent teenage student of literature.
  3. Breadth: Across the three poems, the AI commented on very few structural or linguistic features and made virtually no comment upon them. Its analysis was limited to basic techniques such as metaphors and repetition, which appears to be a limitation.


What is the future of AI analyzing Poetry?

It is difficult to predict exactly how future AI-generated analyses will change without greater insight into how the technology is being developed more broadly. Furthermore, it should be said that poetry analysis is not the priority for the designers and engineers of the system, and so any improvements in this field will likely be secondary to more general updates. However, it stands to reason that the AI’s ability to analyze poetry will improve, given how early we are in the world of artificial intelligence.

Should students be worried?

In short, no. Students have nothing really to lose from AI and its ability to analyze poetry. The fear that it will lead to a sudden increase in cheating is largely unfounded as, in non-exam scenarios, the necessary tools to cheat already exist as there are a plethora of poetry-related materials available online. Likewise, in exam scenarios, students cannot access the AI, so it cannot aid them as they attempt to boost their grades.

Should teachers be worried?

Again, the answer is largely that they should not be worried, albeit with more of a caveat than our answer to the question of whether students should be worried. As we have mentioned, AI-produced poetry analysis is unlikely to benefit students’ performance in exams. However, that is unlikely to stop students from attempting to use it when asked to complete homework, although, as we have said, those students may have been doing so already.

The issue, therefore, is that teachers may find themselves having to take additional precautions to ensure their students are prepared for the exams and have not been simply relying on AI in the build-up. Once again, this is less of a new issue than it has been suggested, as the internet has enabled students to cut corners for a long time, and teachers have still coped.

What should general readers think?

Ultimately, most general readers of poetry are more concerned with how the poem impacts them emotionally than how its techniques function. That is largely what makes them general readers. For those that are interested in finding out more about how it works on a deeper level, they will likely be frustrated by the AI’s relatively competent but superficial interpretations and will seek out more knowledgeable voices. AI provides a surface-level analysis to poetry, but does not go to the level of depths of critical analysis, for example, as Poem Analysis does, or even this article does, comparing our critical analysis to the AI’s.

Ultimate Conclusion to AI Analyzing Poetry from a Poetry Expert

Any aforementioned or implied criticism of AI’s ability to analyze poetry should not take away from the value of the tool more broadly. It has enormous potential across many fields of interest, and poetry is merely one very niche subject that it has yet to master.

Ultimately, the analysis it was able to produce, insofar as it can be regarded as analysis at all, was inoffensive and, for the most part, competent. However, there remain countless more knowledgeable, interesting, and thorough forms of analysis available, such as on Poem Analysis, and one cannot help but think that it will be a very long time before those sources are usurped, if ever.

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Joe Santamaria Poetry Expert
Joe has a degree in English and Related Literature from the University of York and a Masters in Irish Literature from Trinity College Dublin. He is an English tutor and counts W.B Yeats, Emily Brontë and Federico Garcia Lorca among his favourite poets.
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