Ars Poetica by ARCHIBALD MACLEISH

叶蓁蓁

来自: 叶蓁蓁(行到水穷处 坐看云起时) 2013-09-07 22:26:03

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  • 叶蓁蓁

    叶蓁蓁 (行到水穷处 坐看云起时) 2013-09-07 22:27:17

    "Ars Poetica," first published in 1926, is MacLeish's spin on Horace's treatise (translated as "Art of Poetry"), which was written in the first century A.D. as kind of a how-to guide to writing poetry. Way before MacLeish and his modernist pals, Horace was writing about the timelessness of poetry and that poems ought to be "brief and lasting." In other words, poems shouldn't be about big "aha" moments and neat little meanings wrapped delicately in the poet's words. They should just be, rather than mean.

    So, MacLeish takes some of these classical ideas about poetry and makes them his own in his version of "Ars Poetica." But since he's a modern poet, you can expect plenty of paradoxes. One minute we're hearing the speaker compare poetry to a "globed fruit" and the next he's telling us that a poem ought to be "wordless." Huh? How can you write a poem without words?

    It seems the point the speaker is trying to make for us is that poetry should exist in a more metaphysical (other worldly) realm that transcends trite definitions and meanings. Poems should be allowed to move us freely through this world without holding us to concrete ideas and truths. In fact, poems should avoid so-called truths all together and bring us beyond the physical world. So, instead of relying on truths and meanings, MacLeish relies on images that help to heighten our senses and emotions without caging us in the finite world.


    The poem opens with the speaker comparing a poem to a "globed fruit" that's mute and silent. He then goes on to stress the idea of a poem being "wordless as a flight of birds." It should also be motionless in time, leaving all memories of the mind behind. A poem should also avoid so-called truths. It should be without the histories and grief of mankind, but also for it. In addition, it should be "for love" and "two lights above the sea." Above all, a poem should not mean but be.

    (Shmoop)

  • 叶蓁蓁

    叶蓁蓁 (行到水穷处 坐看云起时) 2013-09-07 22:28:07


    What MacLeish is saying, poetically, is that a poem does not tell you anything, it does not whisper, speak, dictate, pontificate, order, sweet-talk, shout or make any other kind of noise – it is mute! A poem simply sits there, like a round fruit. But you, the reader, feel it – it is palpable!

    I advise aspiring poet’s to find a copy of MacLeish’s poem and either study it or stare at it, because either way it’s a pleasure to behold.

    We feel a poem even though it does not speak; it intrigues us or reveals something new to us.


    That seems to go against the idea that a poem is like a short short-story. But what Ars Poetica also implies is that a poem, like a short story, does not lecture the reader; ‘A poem should be wordless / As the flight of birds’. Birds do not stop to tell us how it is that they fly, scientists did that! Birds just fly and we admire them.

    Nor does a poem preach a sermon; ‘A poem must not mean / But be’. It’s neither one way nor another way, but the poetic way; The Tao of Poetry. A poem makes its point not pointedly but metaphorically or allegorically or using concrete imagery and aesthetically fitting diction or may provide ambiguity to spark curiosity and contemplation.

    A reader’s beliefs and morals are their own and are not to be forcefully infringed upon, and poets each have their own. The poet has our attention for only a fleeting moment; the rest is in our own hearts and minds.

    And a poem is not like a treatise or a legal argument; ‘A poem should be equal to: / Not true’. A poem can make a statement without justification. The poet is simply remarking, revealingly or intriguingly, but whether anyone agrees or not is not up to the poet. This is a part of the role a poet plays as the reporter of society’s conscience to our selves, to help us to come to our own realizations. Poets are beacons in the search for Beauty and Truth.

    But what do we do with a ‘globed fruit’? Why we eat it of course!

    So the intrigued reader should be allowed to admire and then consume this round fruit that a poet presents them with, at their own time, according to how they can best digest it.

    Poetry should provide self enlightenment rather than convincing argument. It took me a while to learn that!

    The departure from art and into didactic writing may be forgivable in prose stories. But in poetry it is not easily forgiven. (There is a genre of didactic poetry.)

    The tendency to depart from poetic writing is strongest in prose poetry and what is sometimes called free verse.

    This seems to be the most popular type of poetry for many poets. Perhaps it is because we assume that prose poetry and free verse has no ‘form’, no ‘structure’. But in fact it does have characteristics and qualifiers which are subtle, but are present none the less, to identify poetry from prose and save us from writing blank verse.

    And what are these ‘rules’ of prose and free verse that may be followed? Well, if you’re interested then find out for yourself because this is only a footnote.

    Below there are links to some examples of prose poetry and free verse which I believe may serve to demonstrate this genre of poetry quite readily.

    by CHAEL DOM

    (http://asopa.typepad.com/asopa_people/2013/03/footnotes-from-a-poets-journey-prose-poem-problems.html)

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