A poem should be palpable and mute
As a globed fruit,
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.

- Archibald MacLeish

Horace, from Ars Potica, "Art of Poetry". c. 16-13 BC

Old-school techniques on noding for the Ages:

"Whatever lessons you teach, let them be brief, so that receptive spirits will quickly perceive and faithfully retain what you have said. Everything superfluous seeps out of the well-stocked mind. The centuries of elders drive away whatever is without serious value; the high and mighty Ramnes keep their distance from gloomy poems... He gets every vote who combines the useful with the pleasant, and who, at the same time he pleases the reader, also instructs him. That book will earn money for the Sosii, this one will cross the sea and extend immeasurably the life of a famous writer."

"Most of us poets deceive ourselves by an illusion of correct procedure. I work at achieving brevity; instead I become obscure. Striving for smoothness, vigor and spirit escape me. One poet, promising the sublime, delivers pomposity. Another creeps along the ground, overly cautious and too much frightened of the gale. Whoever wishes to vary a single subject in some strange and wonderful way, paints a dolphin into a forest and a boar onto the high seas. The avoidance of blame leads to error if there is an absence of art."

"Pick a subject, writers, equal to your strength and take some time to consider what your shoulders should refuse and what they can bear. Neither eloquence nor clear organization will forsake one who has chosen a subject within his capabilities. Unless I am mistaken this will be the special excellence and delight of good organization‚ that the author of the promised poem, enamored of one subject and scornful of another, says now what ought to be said now and both postpones and omits a great deal for the present."

"Just as forests change their leaves year by year and the first drop to the ground, so the old generation of words perishes, and new ones, like the rising tide of the young, flourish and grow strong. We, and everything that is ours, are destined to die; whether Neptune, hospitably received on land, keeps our fleets safe from the north winds, a task worthy of a king, or a marsh, barren for a long time, and suitable for oars, nourishes nearby cities and feels the heavy plough, or a river has changed its course that was hostile to crops and has discovered a better route to follow, all things mortal will perish; much less will the glory and grace of language remain alive. Many terms will be born again that by now have sunk into oblivion, and many that are now held in respect will die out if that is what use should dictate in whose power is the judgment and the law and the rule of speech."

"It is not enough for poems to be "beautiful"; they must also yield delight and guide the listener's spirit wherever they wish. As human faces laugh with those who are laughing, so they weep with those who are weeping. If you wish me to cry, you must first feel grief yourself, then your misfortunes, O Telephus or Peleus, will injure me. If you speak ineptly assigned words, I shall either sleep or laugh... Sad words are fitting for the gloomy face, words full of threats for the angry one, playful words for the amused face, serious words for the stern one. For Nature first forms us within so as to respond to every kind of fortune. She delights us or impels us to anger or knocks us to the ground and torments us with oppressive grief. Afterward she expresses the emotions of the spirit with language as their interpreter."

From Latin, The Art of Poetry. Horace's version of Noding about Noding, and also coincidentally his most famous work.

Dated to 13 B.C, Ars Poetica presents Horace's views, or if you may, directives, of the art of poetry and Poetics in general.

Ars Poetica wasn't Horace's original title, and it was added later on, probably by Quintilian (who among other things complied a list of famous writers and their works).

In fact, most experts refers to it as Horace's Epistle to the Pisos, or for us simpletons: Horace's letter to a dude named Pisos.
In spite of its bombastic title, given to it by later generations, it is believed that Horace never intended to write Ars Poetica as a guide to writing poetry, but rather as a personal letter in the form of a verse.

This claim can be easily proven by referring to Horace's previous writings of the time, but the text provides the best evidences to support it; the lack of proper structure and any organized buildup of ideas and concepts, feels more like a researcher scrabbling his notes and ideas, than a writer writing his great thesis; the informal and personal writing, to Pisos (The Pisos were one of Rome's most noble families, descended from Romulus himself according to their own objective legend, and it's not clear to whom of them the letter was addressed).

As a poem about poetry, Ars Poetica, was coined as a phrase, describing self-referential poetry - a poetry which referrers to its own origins and structure (e.g. Gamaliel's above writeup).

To a great extent An Introduction to Poetry (Hubbell and Beaty) was used as a college text in the 1920s, 30s and 40s and is a composite handbook of prosody and anthology. It covers the subjects in a logical and methodical way by being straight forward and it included many poems from outside the canon. They use canon as a loose term for "the poems people usually include in anthologies". One of the first questions the handbook introduces is "What is poetry?" and quote several that are widely known:

The poem dealing with this subject that almost all authors mention is in Ars Poetica. by Archibald MacLeish which was published in 1926 and claims that poetry is to be enjoyed for the same reasons that one enjoys nature -- simply because it is.

Comprised mainly of images -- simple word pictures -- it is intended to be read and understood at many levels by everyone, but not necessarily as the poet initially meant. The art is in the image the poet has drawn. Though the poet cannot predict the readers specific reactions or understandings, it then becomes the reader's responsibility to look at poetry more than read it. A fun thing to try is to rewrite the poem, changing at least one noun per line, deleting words like the, a, an, when, next, then, etc. It helps the reader to form a personal connection. By composing an eight line poem, beginning with A poem should be equal to: / Not true, I used images to suggest my personal interpretation of MacLeish’s poem.

A poem should be equal to:
Not true

For obsidian
rocks would remain unmoved
as glassine reflections

For all the cardinals
boundless in their flight of song

A poem should not mean
But be.

Try it you might be surprised that you too can discover 'the art of poetry.'


Blair, Bob One of the first questions Hubbell and Beaty tackle is "what is ... :

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