For its own sake

(National Poetry Month, Day 11)

 

 

As we continue to enjoy some poems about language and writing, let’s read a poem about poetry. I guess we could call it a meta-poem.

 

I admire Archibald MacLeish’s ability to conjure up a series of multi-sensory images, unrelated though they may seem, to convey the message that poetry is primarily meant to be appreciated, not analyzed. To me, as an English teacher, this idea is paradoxically both revolutionary and part of conventional wisdom. While I love to appreciate beautiful things, I also have a tendency to analyze and over-analyze.

 

What if I just appreciate the poem and analyze only my response to it? Maybe that’s what I’ll try.

 

Ars Poetica

by Archibald MacLeish

 

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.

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