Summary Of Ars Poetica

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“Ars Poetica”, written by Archibald MacLeish, is a Modernist poem that, through careful sensory images, provides guidelines and clear examples of the true form of poetry, and in effect, the poem reveals how life should be lived. “Ars Poetica” is a beacon poem of the Imagist era, yet, at the same time, breaks many Modernist traditions. Similes are utilized throughout the poem to provide examples of how a poem should be brought into existence and evoke instantaneous feelings. “Ars Poetica” breaks the cardinal sin of Imagist poetry, “wordiness”, when it uses repetition to bring across, surprisingly, the core idea of Imagism. This ingenious contrast and contradiction within the poem, presented through imagery, is yet another angle used by MacLeish…show more content…
“Ars Poetica” directly contradicts this Imagist principle, yet manages to teach it at the same time. McLeish opens his poem with the phrase “a poem should be”, and continues to repeat the phrase in lines 7, 9, 15, and 17. The repetition of the word “be” evokes the image of life, emphasizing the idea that a poem is indeed a being; however, repetition, according to McLeish’s principle and the meaning of “Ars Poetica” is a conflicting literacy device within a poem. The most obvious contradiction appears in line 5, “A poem should be wordless”. If a poem “should be wordless” why repeat the phrase “a poem should be” in that very line, or at all? How can McLeish proclaim that poems should be something that his very poem is not? The answer lies within the next line of the stanza, “As the flight of birds”. This line is rich, vivid, and profound, allowing it to leave the page and filter into the subconscious. In order to bring across the principle that a poem should exist, McLeish needs to provide an example contradictory to the principle. Each time the phrase “a poem should be” is repeated, it is followed by a line that obeys the theme of the poem, as seen in line 9, “a poem should be motionless in time/ As the moon climbs”. When one reads the tiresome line “a poem should be motionless in time” the very words seem to be left behind in one’s…show more content…
A poem should be palpable and mute/As a globed fruit,/…/Silent as the sleeve-worn stone/Of casement ledges where the moss has grown—/A poem should be wordless/As the flight of birds. (789) The images within the first stanza mostly depict natural scenes, untainted by humanity. Fruit, moss, and flocks of birds, all bring a peaceful, calm feeling to the poem; however; and more importantly, these images are all natural settings. The theme of nature then flows into the next stanza. A poem should be motionless in time/ As the moon rises,/Twig by twig the night-entangled trees,/Leaving, as the moon behind the winter leaves,/…A poem should be motionless in time/As the moon climbs.
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