“Ars Poetica” has been called MacLeish’s ultimate expression of the Archibald MacLeish, who like Cummings arrived on the poetic scene after the first. 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.
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Ars Poetica – Poem by Archibald MacLeish
Taken as one statement of his theory, the poem does defy the “hair splitting analysis of modern criticism. The poem, as “Ars Poetica” makes clear, captures a human experience, an experience of grief, or of love, or of loneliness, or of memory. Thus a poem becomes a way of knowing, of seeing, albeit through the senses, the emotions, and the imagination. MacLeish often said that the function of a poem is to trap “Heaven and Earth in the cage of form.
Archibald MacLeish, who like Cummings arrived on the poetic scene after the first imagists had created the new movement, nevertheless can be credited with the poetic summing up of imagism in his “Ars Poetica” inwritten well after the imagist decade had ended. 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.
It consists of a sequence of images that are discrete but that at the same time express and exemplify the afs principles and practice of poetry. The Latin title is borrowed from Horace, who wrote a prose treatise in the first century A.
MacLeish wanted to link the classical with the modern in his poetic “treatise” as a way of implying that the standards of good poetry are timeless, that they do not change in essence though actual poems change from age to age and language to language.
His succession of opening images are all about the enduring of poetry through time, as concrete as “globed fruit” or ancient coins or stone ledges, and as inspiring to see as a flight of birds or the moon rising in the sky. 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 that the substance of poetry may be physical but the meaning of poetry is metaphysical: 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 all appearances.
MacLeish’s modern “Art of Poetry” is a fulfillment of the three rules of imagism be direct, be brief, and use free verseof Pound’s definition of the image, and at the same time of Horace’s Latin statement on poetry, that good poetry is one proof that there is a permanence in human experience that does not change but endures through time.
Madness and Wisdom in Modern Poetry. And so at the beginning of the twentieth century, English poetry was dominated by a highly rhetorical, very popular poetry exemplified by such writers as Sir Henry Newbolt, William Watson, and Alfred Noyes.
The subsequent revolt against their poetry and especially the implications of its popularity led directly to a search for an antidote to the horrors of the popular poem.
The antidote was the image and imagist poetry.
In terms of Stead’s metaphor, the imagist poet sought to distance himself from the audience and shorten the line between himself and reality with the goal of creating pure poetry.
MacLeish’ s attempt at an “imagist” poem, “Ars Poetica,” was written March 14,at the beginning of his serious commitment to poetry. Yet in spite of the fact that we have encountered it innumerable times in innumerable anthologies, essays, textbooks, that telling last couplet remains fresh and enigmatic: And what is its significance?
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. To this insightful remark I would add another: Scott Donaldson writes in his biography of MacLeish that “in severely compressed form,” “Ars Poetica” conveys “some of the modernist aesthetic” 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.
Ars Poetica (MacLeish): a Study Guide
There he [MacLeish] found Fenellosa’s observation that “metaphor was the very essence of poetry,” but not as exegesis arhcibald demonstration. Metaphor itself was “experience. It would not do to gush on the page.
The object of a poem was “not to recreate” the poet’s emotion in someone else. The poem itself is finality, an end, a creation. Outlined here are four important aspects of the modernist aesthetic. Arcnibald s astute statement of the importance of metaphor identifies this trope not as exegesis or demonstration, but experience itself.
Second, he isolates the concrete as a representation of the emotion, that is, the objective correlative. Macleidh, he insists upon the avoidance of the merely personal, the escape into the impersonal. And fourth, he understands the poem as a creation that is an end to itself.
Perhaps what was buried in “Ars Poetica” inbut uncovered by MacLeish himself in the letter of is what has drawn us to the poem all these years: 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. This difficulty is compounded when the poems keep talking about themselves and their intentions for poetry as a whole. This is the central paradox of “Ars Poetica.
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