Published on Academy of American Poets (https://poets.org)


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.

Credit


Copyright © by the Estate of Archibald MacLeish and reprinted by permission of the Estate.

Author


Archibald MacLeish

Born in 1892, Archibald MacLeish was a poet, critic, and playwright who fought in World War I. MacLeish was awarded the Pulitzer Prize three times, and he served as a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets from 1946 to 1949. He died in 1982.

Date Published: 1926-01-01

Source URL: https://poets.org/poem/ars-poetica