I think the title is probably about dreams. Maybe the dreams we have when we sleep? Or goals in life?
The poem talks about the importance of holding onto dreams, because without them, life is empty, meaningless, broken, and barren.
The narrator uses words like, “die, broken-winged bird, go, barren field,” and “frozen” to highlight the cold and empty image of a life without dreams and goals.
The narrator’s tone is one of urgency and confidence. The narrator is urging the reader to continue to hold onto their dreams, and the narrator seems to know the importance of holding onto dreams.
In this particular poem, there is no obvious shift between lines or stanzas. Both stanzas are warnings about what happens when someone gives up hope for their future goals.
This poem is about the importance of holding onto goals in life. It is not about sleeping dreams, even though sometimes that’s where our goals manifest.
The theme of the poem is to hold onto goals and the hope of one day achieving them, because without goals, life is broken, empty, and without purpose.
The title might be about a dream being put off until later.
The narrator wonders what happens to dreams that are deferred, and muses about what they do in a series of similes. The narrator wonders if they dry up, fester, stink badly, become too old and sweet, sag like a heavy load, or eventually explode.
The narrator uses comparisons to show the different ways in which a dream put off can become something else on its own for the person who puts it off. The narrator uses words and phrases such as “dry up, fester like a sore, stink like rotten meat, crust and sugar over, sags,” and “explode” to access all of the reader’s senses in thinking about an important dream.
The narrator’s tone is genuinely curious until the end, when the narrator asks in italics if a dream deferred explodes, which seems to be more forceful-- and even hopeful that it will.
The shift occurs after the second, long stanza which asks all of the different things that a dream deferred could do. In the third stanza, the narrator seems a bit defeated, like maybe nothing happens-- but then, in the final line, the narrator perks up and in italics, suggests almost hopefully that a dream deferred might explode.
I was correct in my assumption that the poem might be about a dream that gets put off for awhile, but the narrator actually questions what it might do during the time it gets put off.
The theme of the poem is to be careful of what a dream put off for too long will do. It might not immediately take a toll on the dreamer, but eventually, it might become too much and have to be fulfilled.