Treasure Island

Archibald MacLeish

(7 May 1892 – 20 April 1982 / Glencoe, Illinois)

Ars Poetica


A poem should be palpable and mute
As a globed fruit

Dumb
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

Submitted: Friday, January 03, 2003

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  • Kin Zweb (7/31/2012 12:11:00 AM)

    He all-time best poem ever written. The epitome of Imagist verse. Contains seven vignettes unparalleled in succinctness of expression. The reader must, of course, 'flesh out' the bare bones MacLeish lays out, but what a pleasure to reread, from the opening lines! (Report) Reply

  • Jessica Fay Harding (4/4/2010 12:09:00 PM)

    I love this poem! It's one of my favourite ones that embodies the free spirit of poetry and how this freedom is ruined by scrupulous examination of its' verses. (Report) Reply

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