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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Ars Poetica

(Fritillary by William Morris, 1834-1896,
English textile designer, artist, and writer)

We now conclude this month's study of ars poetica or the art of poetry, looking at the nature of poetry and the way a poet works.

The Polish poet Czeslaw Milosz defined poetry as “a passionate pursuit of the Real.” No science or philosophy “can change the fact that a poet stands before reality that is every day new, miraculously complex, inexhaustible, and tries to enclose as much of it as possible in words.”

A poem “begins in delight,” wrote the American poet Robert Frost. “It inclines to the impulse, it assumes direction with the first line laid down, it runs a course of lucky events, and ends in a clarification of life — not necessarily a great clarification, such as sects and cults are founded on, but in a momentary stay against confusion.”


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.

~ Archibald MacLeish (1892-1982), American poet


Ruth said...

This month's poems have been wonderful. There have been many that were new to me, and I've loved the themes. Thank you!

Mary Lee said...

I need to go back and read the entire month! Poetry about poetry is just about my favorite kind. of my favorite kinds, anyway...