Common Lisp the Language, 2nd Edition
The standard way for the user to interact with a Common Lisp implementation is via a read-eval-print loop: the system repeatedly reads a form from some input source (such as a keyboard or a disk file), evaluates it, and then prints the value(s) to some output sink (such as a display screen or another disk file). Any form (evaluable data object) is acceptable; however, certain special forms are specifically designed to be convenient for use as top-level forms, rather than as forms embedded within other forms in the way that (+ 3 4) is embedded within (if p (+ 3 4) 6). These top-level special forms may be used to define globally named functions, to define macros, to make declarations, and to define global values for special variables.
It is not illegal to use these forms at other than top level, but whether it is meaningful to do so depends on context. Compilers, for example, may not recognize these forms properly in other than top-level contexts. (As a special case, however, if a progn form appears at top level, then all forms within that progn are considered by the compiler to be top-level forms.)
X3J13 voted in March 1989 (DEFINING-MACROS-NON-TOP-LEVEL) to clarify that, while defining forms normally appear at top level, it is meaningful to place them in non-top-level contexts. All defining forms that create functional objects from code appearing as argument forms must ensure that such argument forms refer to the enclosing lexical environment. Compilers must handle defining forms properly in all situations, not just top-level contexts. However, certain compile-time side effects of these defining forms are performed only when the defining forms occur at top level (see section 25.1).
Macros are usually defined by using the special form defmacro. This facility is fairly complicated; it is described in chapter 8.