Thursday, June 2, 2016

Ars Poetica, Sonnet #300

For Michael Antman

Here is one way others might have put it --
Others, each most certainly a poet:
"A poem is not voice, not It, not words.
A visage stuck on a tree trunk with eyes
That see a face in every disguise,
A barking, one more ring of the absurd."
This face of wood had a blank beginning,
But I see him in the middle of things,
Resigned, but not unconscious of his state.
The light in his dark eyes says, "I am here,
I and no other, and I've seen my fate,
So I have something to say, come nearer."
MacLeish: "A poem should not mean, but be."
No, a poem should be a beam of me.

Note: The Ars Poetica, or poem about The Art of Poetry has a long
tradition going back to Horace. The most famous 20th century
Ars Poetica is by Archibald MacLeish. It's a lovely poem in many ways,
but I've always hated the concluding couplet. I wonder how many 
bad poems have been written and published because of those two lines. 
A well-known critic recently said, by way of advice to poets, "What you
have to say is rubbish. It's how you say it that matters." Rubbish. How 
you say it is important, but if you have nothing to say, or nothing worth 
saying, or what you say is rubbish, then what's the point?