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Ars Poetica

Ars Poetica


by Archibald MacLeish

Ars Poetica Theme of Language and Communication

Even though a poem should be "wordless," according to our speaker, "Ars Poetica" still has words in it. (We went back and checked, just to be sure.) And since the speaker is talking about poetry and the ideas a poem might communicate, it's safe to say that we have some questions floating around concerning language and communication.

Questions About Language and Communication

  1. How should a poem communicate the world to us? Is language always such a bad thing in MacLeish's poem?
  2. Is it really possible for a poem to be "palpable and mute" at the same time?
  3. What's the relationship between language and truth in the poem? Can language ever really communicate "truths" about the world and life?
  4. If a poem should be "wordless," how can we expect to understand what a poem is about? What should we rely on instead of words and explanations?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

Language is a tricky thing when it comes to good poetry; it should make us feel something but it shouldn't scream at us at the same time. AT THE VERY LEAST AVOID ALL CAPS.

Words can never really communicate truths to us, whether in poetry or anywhere else, but they can make us feel "truth" as we perceive it. Far out.

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