Poetry is an art form that has been celebrated and scrutinized throughout history. Archibald MacLeish’s “Ars Poetica” and Pablo Neruda’s “Poetry” are two poems that reflect on the nature of poetry. Both poems share similarities and differences in their themes and formal elements. This essay will analyse these similarities and differences to understand the ways in which these poets understand the art of poetry.
MacLeish’s “Ars Poetica” is a short poem that reflects the importance of the structure and form of poetry in conveying its meaning. It presents a series of metaphors that describe poetry as an art form that should be free from any restrictions. The poem starts with the famous line, “A poem should be palpable and mute/ As a globed fruit,” which sets the tone for the rest of the poem. MacLeish compares a poem to a “globed fruit” that can be held and examined from all angles, emphasizing the importance of the physicality of language in poetry. He believes that a poem should not explain itself or have a specific message, but rather convey emotions and ideas through images, in other words, it should be experienced and felt rather than simply understood. This idea is exemplified in the lines, “A poem should not mean/ But be,”. MacLeish also uses a number of metaphors throughout the poem to illustrate his point, including the idea that a poem should be “wordless/As the flight of birds”, suggesting that poetry should be clear and pure, unencumbered by unnecessary words or ideas. MacLeish’s poem emphasizes the importance of the sensory experience of poetry, and suggests that it should be appreciated for its beauty rather than its meaning. Moreover, MacLeish uses vivid imagery to describe the essence of poetry. He says that poetry should be “Dumb/ As old medallions to the thumb,” which suggests that the poem should be so powerful that it does not need words to be understood. In other words, the images in a poem should be enough to convey the meaning and emotions. He also emphasizes the importance of brevity, saying that “A poem should be motionless in time/As the moon climbs” which implies that it should capture a moment or feeling that transcends time.
In contrast, Neruda’s “Poetry” reflects on the emotional and spiritual experience of poetry that transcends traditional forms of communication. Neruda describes the way that poetry arrived “in search of me” and how it touched him. Neruda’s poem suggests that poetry is something that comes from within, a force that cannot be controlled but rather must be embraced. He writes that poetry “started in my soul, fever or forgotten wings” and that he “made my own way, deciphering that fire.” This suggests that poetry is a deeply personal and emotional experience that comes from within the poet and is expressed through their words. He suggests that poetry is a process of discovering and understanding something that is beyond our grasp. Additionally, he describes how he “saw the heavens unfastened and open” and felt himself “a pure part of the abyss.” These images convey the idea that poetry can transcend time and space and take us to a place beyond our physical realm. Neruda suggests that poetry has the power to connect us to something greater than ourselves. He describes how he felt himself a part of the “great starry void” and how his heart “broke loose on the wind.” Through these images, he conveys the idea that poetry can help us transcend our own individual experience and connect us to a greater collective consciousness. The final lines also emphasize the emotional and visceral experience of poetry.
In conclusion, both Archibald MacLeish’s “Ars Poetica” and Pablo Neruda’s “Poetry” present different perspectives on the nature of poetry. While Neruda highlights the emotional and spiritual experience of poetry that transcends traditional forms of communication, MacLeish emphasizes the importance of the structure and form of poetry in conveying its meaning. Both poems, however, share the common theme of the importance of poetry as a unique art form that has the power to awaken the senses and emotions of the reader. The poems’ differing approaches to the nature of poetry reflect the vast possibilities and variations in the art of poetry, making it a form of expression that continues to inspire and challenge artists and readers alike.