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"Ars Poetica" by Archibald MacLeish

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“Ars Poetica” by Archibald MacLeish

1.   There are many definitions to the definition of poetry. The definition that I finally selected because it defined what poetry means to me was by Mark Flanagan: “Poetry is an imaginative awareness of experience expressed through meaning, sound, and rhythmic language choices so as to evoke an emotional response. Poetry has been known to employ meter and rhyme, but this is by no means necessary. Poetry is an ancient form that has gone through numerous and drastic reinvention over time. The very nature of poetry as an authentic and individual mode of expression makes it nearly impossible to define.” Poetry has had a past history with an ancient form that is not “hip hop” today. Not all poetry has to have rhyme, but it can often help a poem to flourish. The words in a poem are trying to give a sense or feeling to them, no matter what form is used.

  1. A poem to me is a short story put in a few lines. I expect  to use my imagination and my brain to understand and interpret the meaning that the poet is trying to express with the use of imagery, metaphors, and similes. Whether or not, there is rhyme and rhythm, this would not influence my acceptance and enjoyment of a poem. I do enjoy reading and writing poetry (which gives me a chance to express my emotions).
  1. “Ars Poetica” written by Archibald MacLeish is an Ars Poetica poem. It consists of 12 stanzas. Each stanza consists of 2 lines. The subject of the poem is MacLeish’s opinion as to how a poem should be written and understood, with the use of fewer words to express feelings. “A poem should not mean - But be” (21-22).
  1. MacLeish was a devoted poet, and even gave up his lawyer career just to write poetry. In his poem “Ars Poetica” he is expressing himself and his view on poetry. With concise and descriptive wording I view MacLeish as a very educated person, and not as a romantic. MacLeish had a long and close friendship with Ernest Hemmingway, who did influence him in his later poetry writing.
  1. In “Ars Poetica” MacLeish repeats one stanza “A poem should be motionless in time – As the moon climbs” (9-10, 15-16). MacLeish’s use the imagery of the “moon climbing,” to show time will pass without the poem being lost in time. I connect to his wish, which as I mentioned he feels is significant enough to repeat, that poetry should never become a lost art and vanish in time.
  1. “Dumb – As old medallions to the thumb” (3-4). MacLeish uniquely only in this stanza of the poem  rhymed dumb with thumb, but  also used a simile to compare a poem to old medallions and the thumb.  Being a World War 1 veteran, MacLeish was comparing his war medallions to a thumb. A thumb that is alone without the hand is not very affective, and a poem should be short and concise which is metaphorically used in the word “dumb.”
  1. MacLeish in “Ars Poetica” is making a statement to me that an overflow of descriptive and meaningless words, are not necessary in a poem. With the use of imagery and figures of speech, a poem can be concisely written. In the first and last stanzas, MacLeish is denoting this point: “A poem should be palpable and mute – As a globed fruit” (1-2), “A poem should not mean – But be” (23-24). I did receive some insight from this poem that poems can be just as meaningful if they are short and it is not the length that counts.

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