Continuing what is fast becoming a joint theme...
(Poem #188) 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-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
In the code language of criticism when a poem is said to be about poetry the word "poetry" is often used to mean: how people construct an intelligibility out of the randomness they experience; how people choose what they love; how people integrate loss and gain; how they distort experience by wish and dream; how they perceive and consolidate flashes of harmony; how they (to end a list otherwise endless) achieve what Keats called a "Soul or Intelligence destined to possess the sense of Identity." -- Helen Vendler, poetry critic Rather unsurprisingly, if you think about it, a number of poets have taken a break from mirroring reality, and turned their gaze inwards, whether upon other poets, other poems, the nature and role of the Poet, or, most reflexively, the nature and role of Poetry. Today's poem is a beautiful example. Titled Ars Poetica - 'the Art of Poetry' - it attempts to prescribe the nature of poetry, and - in a move Hofstadter would have loved - does so in the form of a poem. Furthermore, it does not seek to sidestep the possible pitfalls and inconsistencies this approach leaves it open to - rather it meets them head on, using words like 'mute', 'dumb' and 'wordless' to set up a paradox culminating in the wonderful last stanza, 'a poem should not mean / but be'. En route, the main thread is woven through with several exquisite images, speaking to the reader even as it advocates silence, progressing even as it advocates motionlessness. And yet, at the end, it does resolve itself into a seamless, integrated whole, as perfectly self-contained as the globed fruit, or the timeless, frozen stillness of a winter's night. The reader is free to pick it apart, to tease meaning from the tapestry of contradictions and images. As for the poem, it simply is.  and not, as several overingenious students have suggested, 'poetry my a**e' <g> Links: A nice serial analysis of the poem can be found at <http://www.newwinds.com/poethome/stuart06.htm> - I don't agree with every one of his points, but overall he's done a nice job. Biography: MacLeish, Archibald b. May 7, 1892, Glencoe, Ill., U.S. d. April 20, 1982, Boston U.S. poet, playwright, teacher, and public official, whose concern for liberal democracy figured in much of his work, although his most memorable lyrics are of a more private nature. There's an online biography at <[broken link] http://www.poets.org/lit/poet/amacleis.htm> and another at <[broken link] http://www.rothpoem.com/duk_am.html> m.