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Ars Poetica by Archibald MacLeish. Ars Poetica Learning Guide by PhD students from Stanford, Harvard, Berkeley. Brief summary of the poem Ars Poetica. Ars Poetica. by Archibald MacLeish. Home /; Poetry /; Ars Poetica /; Summary. Ars Poetica /; Summary. SHMOOP. “Ars Poetica” (Latin for “The Art of Poetry”) is a lyric poem of twenty-four lines. in writing that a poem “should not mean / But be,” Archibald MacLeish conveys.

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A poem should be motionless in time As the moon climbs.

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Ars Poetica Poem by Archibald MacLeish – Poem Hunter

The second section compares a poem to the moon. The statements are not only concrete but paradoxical, for it is impossible that poems should be “mute” or “Dumb” or “Silent” or “wordless,” which would mean that there was no communication in them at all; rather, what MacLeish is stating in his succession of paradoxical images is aes the substance of poetry may be physical but the meaning of poetry is metaphysical: A climbing moon appears motionless when it is observed at any given moment.

Dumb As old medallions 3 to the thumb. Roosevelt persuaded him to accept an appointment as Librarian of Congress, a maclesih he kept for five years. For all the history of grief An empty doorway and a maple leaf. The feet are mostly iambic, and the meter varies.

The antidote was the image and imagist poetry. Text of the Poem. Macleish continued to write poetry, criticism, and stage- and screenplays, to great acclaim. In other words, in “Ars Poetica,” we are privileged to behold the strange phenomenon of didacticism in the guise of ars gratia artis.


It is inconceivable that such a poem could have been written without imagism, because the technique as well as the philosophy of MacLeish’s most famous poem is imagist.

Contains seven vignettes unparalleled in succinctness of expression. To feel creep up the curving east The earthy chill of dusk and slow Upon those under lands the vast And ever climbing shadow grow And strange at Ecbatan the trees Take leaf by.

A poem is not a newspaper account, an essay, or a historical document. Rather, like the smell of spices wafting from a restaurant, it should merely suggest.

From toMacLeish worked as an editor at Fortune magazine. The poem, as “Ars Poetica” makes clear, captures a human experience, an experience of grief, or of love, or of loneliness, or of memory. If a poem has universality, it can move from one moment to the next, or from one age to another, while its relevance remains poeica “motionless,” line 9. Write an essay that elaborates on the last two lines of MacLeish’s poem.

This remark comes about after Donaldson has pointed to a gloss on the poem that MacLeish wrote to Norman Holes Pearson inin which MacLeish used his notebooks to refresh his memory on his thinking at the time of the writing of the poem. Following are examples of figures of speech in the poem: A poem should not mean But be. To this insightful remark I would add another: Not true For all the history of grief An empty doorway and a maple leaf For love The leaning grasses and two lights above the sea – A poem should not mean But be.

Ars Poetica – Poem by Archibald MacLeish

The final paradox, that “A poem should not mean but be,” is pure impossibility, but the poet insists it is nevertheless valid, because beyond the meaning of any poem is the being that it points to, which is ageless and permanent, a divine essence or spiritual reality behind postica appearances. There he [MacLeish] found Fenellosa’s observation that “metaphor was the very essence of poetry,” but not as exegesis or demonstration.


It consists of a sequence of images that are discrete but that at the same time express and exemplify the imagist archibalv and practice of poetry.

And what is its significance? After death separated two lovers, the cemetery grass grew archibaldd and now leans against a tombstone.

The epitome of Imagist verse. Metaphor itself was “experience. Write an essay that interprets lines And here face down beneath the sun And here upon earth’s noonward height To feel the always coming on The always rising of the night: MacLeish thoroughly reorganized the Library’s administrative offices and established the Library’s series malceish poetry readings. The fall of the city. Madness and Wisdom in Modern Poetry. One of the hardest things about studying Modern Poetry is that you can write a far more coherent and plausible account from what the poets said they were doing than from their poems.

It is not an imagist poem, he says, because, first, it is almost impossible to write one, and second, it is too didactic; there is too strong a message. If a poem has universality and timelessness, it can archibalx from one pooetica to the next, or from one age to another, while its relevance remains fixed “motionless”. The third section states that a poem should just “be,” like a painting on a wall or a sculpture on a pedestal.