Thursday, April 2, 2009

It's National Poetry Month...Again!!

So many poets, so little time...well, let's jump right into it, shall we? Today I'm going to write about Archibald Macleish (1892-1982), an American poet who wrote some cool stuff, poetry and plays and the like. He was influenced by poets like Ezra Pound and T.S. Eliot. For a good long while, his philosophy on poetry was that its value was in itself, not necessarily in any social value the poem might also encompass (This philosophy is illustrated in the poem I'm going to feature down below.). Later on, his work contained strong messages of social justice and, during the days leading up to World War II, they had constant patriotic themes, freedom, justice and the American way and all that....which is all well and good, but today I'm not featuring any of those poems. I'm featuring his poem Ars Poetica, which is generally one of the first poems I teach during my poetry unit (that is, when I'm teaching). Ars Poetica is Latin, meaning "The Art Of Poetry". It's not uncommon for poets to write an "Ars Poetica" poem to explore their own personal views on the subject. This is MacLeish's view and is, I think, an excellent poetry philosophy...

Ars Poetica

A poem should be palpable and mute
As a globed fruit

Dumb
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-entangling 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.

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