Study Guide

Ars Poetica Art and Culture

By Archibald MacLeish

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Art and Culture

Of course "Ars Poetica" (Art of Poetry) is about art. What were you expecting it to be about? The life cycle of the mealworm? But it's also about how to experience art and, in some ways, life in general. For a moment we get to feel out of ourselves, no matter if the speaker is talking about poetry or birds flying in the sky. Any way you cut it, we get to go beyond the physical world and explore the metaphysical world of art and poetry.

Questions About Art and Culture

  1. What is the most important point the speaker appears to make about art and poetry? Can we even call it a "point"? Why or why not?
  2. How does the speaker use literary devices to help demonstrate the "art of poetry"? Are the devices effective? Why or why not?
  3. How does the poem appear to be a balance of conventional poetry and modern poetry? Why couldn't MacLeish just stick with one or the other?
  4. Do you think poetry can ever just "be"? Is it really possible for a poem to be meaningful without giving us any "meanings"? Why do you think so?

Chew on This

Bottom line: poetry is about life. In MacLeish's poem, then, poetry must therefore resist defining something as indefinable as life.

Relax, everybody. Art and poetry shouldn't try so hard to prove something; rather, it should be just as free as life itself.

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