Monday, September 24, 2012

Ars Poetica and Allegory of Poetry

Allegory of Poetry, Oil on Canvas, circa 1750, Eustache Le Sueur,
at Noortman Master Paintings Gallery
 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 -- 

Two Women at a Window, c. 1655/1660, Bartolom√© Esteban Murillo, National Gallery of Art, Washington D. C.
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.
Romantic Moon

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)

Poetry should inspire, influence gently, and tell a story.... Not unlike the Two Women at the Window by Murillo this poem suggests the stories and perspectives of the individual viewers as life passes by their window. Poems have a life of their own, like all art, they are read during differing life stages, from various perspectives, and during different times of history.  

The meaning of poetry will always change over time and place.  Like the moon, the changes will be slow and so subtle that they appear to not be changing, yet the moon is crossing the night sky. 'Being' a poem is immortality  in 'meaning' it is transient and because of that a poem should not 'mean' it should 'Be'. 

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