Before 1-1 Click the mouse button or press the Space Bar to display the information. To read a poem about what a poem should be To identify and show the purpose of similes To paraphrase the main arguments of a poem
Before 1-2 Archibald MacLeish was born in 1892 and died in 1982. Click the Speaker button to hear more about Archibald MacLeish.
The Time and Place Ars Poetica is a Latin phrase meaning “the art of poetry.” Ars Poetica was also the title of a work written around 13 B.C., in which the Roman poet Horace expressed his own rules for writing poetry. MacLeish published his “Ars Poetica” in 1926, in a collection titled Streets in the Moon. When he wrote the poem, MacLeish was living in Paris and was caught up in the study of poetry, working to perfect his own skills. He was part of a circle of innovative American writers who had settled in Paris. His friends included Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and E. E. Cummings. Before 1-3 BACKGROUND
Before 1-5 FOCUS ACTIVITY Click the mouse button or press the Space Bar to display the information. Discuss In small groups, complete the statement: “A good poem is …” Do you judge a poem by its sounds, its choice of words, the way you respond to it, or something else? Setting a Purpose Read to learn one writer’s ideas about poetry.
Reading 1-A Navigation Toolbar A B CA B C A Active Reading Visualize The poetry you’ve been reading depends heavily on images. This poem is no different. How do you picture the opening lines in your mind?
Author’s Craft Reading 1-B B Repetition Click the Speaker button to listen to an excerpt from the poem. Why does MacLeish repeat lines 9–10 in lines 15–16? The repetition of the lines reinforces the concept of imperceptible motion in the poem. It also unifies the middle section of the poem. Click the mouse button or press the Space Bar to display the answer.
Literary Elements Reading 1-C C Rhyme Scheme and Meter Most of “Ars Poetica” is written in rhymed couplets, so it is not free verse. Is the meter of the poem predictable? No. MacLeish varies both line lengths and meter. Click the mouse button or press the Space Bar to display the answer.
Responding 1 Contents Personal Response Analyzing Literature Literary Elements Literature and Writing Click a hyperlink to go to the corresponding content area.
Personal Response 1 PERSONAL RESPONSE As you read the poem, which image could you see, feel, or hear most vividly in your imagination? Why?
What five adjectives in lines 1–8 describe what a poem should be? What is ironic about the use of these words to describe a poem? Analyzing 1-1 The five adjectives are palpable, mute, dumb, silent, and wordless. They are ironic because they suggest that poetry should be touchable but silent. However, poetry is usually thought of as audible, with strong, palpable images. RECALL AND INTERPRET Click the mouse button or press the Space Bar to display the answer.
To what does the speaker compare poetry in lines 9–16? What does this image suggest about the function of poetry? Analyzing 1-2 Click the mouse button or press the Space Bar to display the answer. The speaker compares poetry to the moon, suggesting that poetry should be unobtrusive while quietly and slowly illuminating its subject. RECALL AND INTERPRET
How does the speaker suggest that grief and love be represented in poetry? What can you infer from this suggestion about the way poems should express emotions? Grief and love should be represented by images. MacLeish implies that emotions are best expressed through images. RECALL AND INTERPRET Click the mouse button or press the Space Bar to display the answer. Analyzing 1-3
What does the speaker say poems should be in lines 17–18 and 23–24? What might the speaker be saying about poetry in these lines? Explain. Analyzing 1-4 Click the mouse button or press the Space Bar to display the answer. A poem should be “equal to: / Not true” and “not mean / But be.” Poetry should not appeal to our minds but to our feelings; it should show, not tell, its ideas. RECALL AND INTERPRET
Analyzing 1-5 EVALUATE AND CONNECT Click the mouse button or press the Space Bar to display the answer. How would you rate the images in this poem based on their appeal to the senses? Explain your rating. Possible answer: The images are rated highly because of their evocative power.
Analyzing 1-6 EVALUATE AND CONNECT Click the mouse button or press the Space Bar to display the answer. In your opinion, do lines 20 and 22 adequately capture the emotions of grief and love? Why or why not? Possible answers: No, the images are vague. Yes, the images are evocative of grief and love. For example, “an empty doorway” suggests the absence of someone and could evoke grief, while “two lights above the sea” could suggest two people in love.
Analyzing 1-7 EVALUATE AND CONNECT Click the mouse button or press the Space Bar to display the answer. Do you agree with the statements made in lines 17–18 and lines 23–24? Explain. Possible answers: Yes, the lines suggest that a poem should simply reveal meaning without explanation. No, the meaning of poetry should be clearly stated.
Analyzing 1-8 EVALUATE AND CONNECT How does the speaker’s explanation of what a poem “should be” compare with your definition of a good poem? Has your definition changed after reading this poem? Why or why not?
Literary Elements 1-1 A simile is a figure of speech that compares two things by using words such as like or as. LITERARY ELEMENTS The comparison to something familiar provides new insights about the thing being compared and creates a more vivid experience for the reader. In “Ars Poetica,” MacLeish uses several similes to clarify and expand his meaning. For example, he uses the simile “As old medallions to the thumb” to clarify what he means by saying that a poem should be “dumb.” Click the mouse button or press the Space Bar to display the information.
Literary Elements 1-2 LITERARY ELEMENTS Click the mouse button or press the Space Bar to display the answer. To what does MacLeish compare the way a poem should be “motionless in time”? He compares it to a climbing moon.
Literary Elements 1-3 LITERARY ELEMENTS Click the mouse button or press the Space Bar to display the answer. What other similes can you find in the poem? Explain how each simile helps clarify and expand the term that comes before it. “As a globed fruit” (line 2) reinforces the sense of touch. “As old medallions” (line 4) suggests that a poem’s meaning is not immediately obvious. Similarly, “the sleeve-worn stone” (line 5) implies that a poem does not tell the reader something; rather, it elicits a response. “As the flight of birds” (line 8) implies that much can be said without words.
Literature and Writing 1-1 Paraphrase the Poem “Ars Poetica” is an argument for what a poem should be, but the argument is presented in the form of a poem. In your own words, rewrite the main ideas of the argument in prose form. Be sure your completed work has an effective introduction and conclusion.
Literary Elements Transparency 1-2 “a faithful joy / (that) is like a rose” The speaker relates one joy to a rose because it is beautiful and cherished like a special gift. The other joy is compared to a thorn because, though gone, its sting can be felt.