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Ars Poetica

Ars Poetica


by Archibald MacLeish

Ars Poetica Theme of Versions of Reality

It's a modern poem, so you know "Ars Poetica" is likely going to delve into the tricky world of reality and our frequent, but futile, attempts to define the world around us. And yet, MacLeish keeps things relatively simple for us here. Reality, in his poem, is about "being" rather than "meaning." So put away that calculator and dust off your imagination already.

Questions About Versions of Reality

  1. Can we really pin down a particular "reality" in the poem? If not, what does that say about the poem's theme of versions of reality?
  2. What's the significance of time in the poem? How does time relate to the poem's theme of versions of reality?
  3. What's the deal with the "history of grief"? Does "history," in this sense, provide an accurate depiction of reality? Explain.
  4. How do the different sets of imagery contribute to the poem's emphasis on versions of reality? Do we feel as if we're dipping in and out of different realities?

Chew on This

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

Reality, in MacLeish's poem, is a matter of perspective and "being," rather than a concrete depiction of the world around us. Trippy, we know.

Time for a cliché: a picture says a thousand words. If we're going to try to define reality in MacLeish's poem, it makes sense to do so via imagery, rather than so-called "truths."

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