Ars Poetica

Archibald MacLeish- Ars Poetica

This poem is about poetry and how it should be read. The first line of the first stanza states, “A poem should be palpable and mute”. In being palpable, a poem should be of substance, tangible, and real and most importantly of worth to the reader. In saying that a poem should be mute suggests that it should invoke more of a feeling than merely laying down meaningless words. These two terms form a paradox to emphasize the fact that a poem should be simple and should evoke unique feelings from each reader. It continues, “As a globed fruit”. A fruit is accessible to all, for all to enjoy and in this way he uses this simile to demonstrate how a poem should be. It is globed, spherical, a continuum, it is everlasting and can be interpreted in many ways. The word, “globe” implies a sense of hollowness which contradicts the tangibility of the fruit. This paradox reinforces the notion expressed in the first line, that a poem means different things to different people.

It continues, “Dumb/ As old medallions to the thumb”. This implies that poetry should not be expressed or articulated in mere sounds and words, but that it rather creates a familiar feeling, even a sense of worth. Further, “Silent as the sleeve-worn stone/ Of casement ledges where the moss has grown”. One would not see nor hear the moss growing, rather one day notice its existence. In this way, poetry should be subtle in the way it affects the reader. And then, “A poem should be wordless/ As the flight of birds”. A poem should convey a message without intending to, just witnessing a flight of birds would have an emotional impact on the viewer. The common thread in using the words “mute”, “dumb”, “silent” and “wordless” reinforces the impact the poet attempts to make, namely that a poem should not dictate a meaning but rather invoke a feeling that is true to the individual. The poet makes extensive use of similes and short, simple verses to convey this message.

The first...