Open Thread: Ars Poetica

Ars Poetica

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 MacLeish1892 - 1982
I recommend this poem on this recommends day because I'm a big believer in the whole "Not mean; but be" thing.  While we don't deal with poetry here, I think a lot of the issues we have found in works like Narnia and Twilight come from a friction between the meaning (e.g. "But it's a metaphor for...") and the being (e.g. "It's 300 years of genocide and he's a part of it.")
Now I have to be careful here because I could give the wrong impression.  "A lot" is not the same thing as "most" and certainly not the same thing as "all."  We have found mountains of problems and so sometimes a subset that is a distinct minority is still quite large.
In general I think meaning-being issues cause us to go, "Wha...?  I don't ... I mean-- Huh?" rather than, "Wow, that really shows [sexism/racism/bigotry/prejudice]."  Though that's only a general thing and individual results vary.

A particularly egregious version pops up a lot in children's and young adult fiction.  A character is treating a problem like the end of the world.  It's a metaphor for how people, ostensibly young people but in truth every age group does it, can blow things out of proportion and treat minor concerns as apocalyptic.  The other characters follow the metaphor and thus treat the problem like they would if a child were blowing a small thing out of proportion BUT in the text of the fiction itself the problem is literally the end of the world and so the characters that are supposed to be stand-ins for people with decent perspective become complete monsters who would watch the world burn around them while the people screamed out in bloodcurdling cries of cacophonous agony rather than listen to someone they think they're above.
Anyway, there's a poem that I think helps put an endemic problem in fiction into perspective.  What are some works that you find broad application for?
Saturday Recommendations!  What have you been reading/writing/listening to/playing/watching lately?  Shamelessly self-promote or boost the signal on something you think we should know about - the weekend’s coming up, give us something new to explore!
And, like on all threads: please remember to use the "post new comment" feature rather than the "reply" feature, even when directly replying to someone else! 


Post a Comment