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Ars Poetica

My writing is one-dimensional now. I wrote a lot this week. I spend 15-30 minutes everyday free-writing and do more formal writing for classes and dissertation. Nothing has popped up for new poetry, but I feel that will change over the next week or two. Slowly, I am finding that creative, meditative space that poetry occupies and speaks when I am quiet enough to hear.

I read earlier today and came across this poem by Archibald MacLeish. I am unfamiliar with the poet or poem, but the lines about poems being silent and wordless make sense. It is sometimes in the spaces between words that we find the greatest meaning. Here I find my soul. In those moments of silence, regardless their length I am present and attentive.

A poem should be palpable and mute

As a globed fruit;


As old medallion 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 of the mind.

A poem should be motionless in time

As the moon climbs.

A poem should be 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.

About ivonprefontaine

I completed a PhD at Gonzaga University in Spokane, WA. Previously, I taught for 20 years and taught for 15 years in a wonderful hybrid school. My dissertation topic and research were how certain teachers experience becoming who teachers. In teaching and leanring, I am a boundary-crosser who understands moving ahead is a leap of faith. Teaching is a calling and vocation to express who I am as a person. Currently, I am waiting and listening to what calls me next. I am an educator, phenomenologist, scholar, boundary-crosser, published poet, author, parent, grandparent, and spouse.

14 responses »

  1. “A poem should not mean; But be”. Those are powerful words. How many children have seen poetry ruined for them by well meaning teachers whose first question was always a version of “What does it mean?”
    When my children were young we took them from Australia to Europe and wandered for almost four years. For the majority of that time home was a caravan and a small tent. They lived with different cultures and different languages and never lost their curiosity. We explored a lot of ancient ruins, huge cathedrals, museums and galleries. We stayed in tiny villages, on the outskirts of massive cities and frequently in farmers’ fields.
    A question we often herd in the early days when we visited galleries

  2. Sorry, I touched the wrong bit of my ipad screen! As I was saying, a question we often heard during their early visits to galleries was “what is it meant to be?” The reply was fairly consistent, “It is meant to be that” we would say, pointing at the art work in question.
    There may be time later to think about implied meanings. The first experience of any work of art, poem or painting, should be to simply let it be and respond to its being. That takes time. But until we allow for the experiencing of the work as it is, without the intellectual digging and probing that curiosity might encourage, we will miss opportunities for the power of the art to speak to us.

  3. Wonderful poem, the thoughts and the images are so true and beautiful…

  4. Evocative – reminds me of a quote (the source of which I can’t remember) – that life happens in the spaces in between.

  5. What a beautiful and true poem. The language and the way it is used are so lovely. Thank you for this sharing. Warmly, Tasha

  6. What a joy of a poem! Sitting here at my computer screen I saw birds in flight, and the moon rise through the barren limbs of trees on a crisp winter night, and felt lifted to another realm. What power the poems that be.

    Thanks for sharing this Ivon. I really enjoyed it. 🙂

  7. Thanks for following “Tails from Paris” : We’re now following your blog too.

    If you want to sharpen your international sense of humor, we do also have a French version called “Sous nos Couettes” :

    Thanks for sharing if you enjoy it too …

    Best from Paris, France 😉


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