Ars Poetica Poem by Archibald MacLeish

Ars Poetica

Rating: 3.6

A poem should be palpable and mute
As a globed fruit

As old medallions to the thumb

Silent as the sleeve-worn stone
Of casement ledges where the moss has grown -

A poem should be wordless
As the flight of birds

A poem should be motionless in time
As the moon climbs

Leaving, as the moon releases
Twig by twig the night-entangled trees,

Leaving, as the moon behind the winter leaves,
Memory by memory the mind -

A poem should be motionless in time
As the moon climbs

A poem should be equal to:
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
Jessica Fay Harding 04 April 2010

I love this poem! It's one of my favourite ones that embodies the free spirit of poetry and how this freedom is ruined by scrupulous examination of its' verses.

21 9 Reply
Jalisa Harbin 18 December 2007

how many lines is the poem composed of?

8 19 Reply
Mackenzie Keane 04 March 2010

'a poem should not mean, but be' :)

17 7 Reply
Kin Zweb 31 July 2012

He all-time best poem ever written. The epitome of Imagist verse. Contains seven vignettes unparalleled in succinctness of expression. The reader must, of course, 'flesh out' the bare bones MacLeish lays out, but what a pleasure to reread, from the opening lines!

7 4 Reply
Soumita Sarkar 09 September 2015

True following the lines of Formalism...a poem has its own soul...self...beginning..middle and has a life of its own laced with the qualities mentioned in this poem.....

0 1 Reply
R. H. Peat 29 July 2022

I like the structure of this poem, it's a wonderful use of the Double Compound Metaphor that he speaks about in his book. Each stanza holds much.

0 0 Reply
Chinedu Dike 28 January 2022

Brilliant and profound.

0 0 Reply
Michael Walker 07 August 2019

'A poem should not mean/ But be'. I could not put it any better than that.

0 0 Reply
James McNaney 22 February 2019

Impeccably brilliant.

1 0 Reply
Dutendra Chamling 01 November 2015

...A poem should not mean But be... asks for other poet's ideology.

1 0 Reply
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