Write “Your Very Own Ars Poetica”


Q: What is the purpose of poetry?

A: Why an Ars Poetica of course.

Q: A what?

(Now the fun begins…)

A: Well, being a Latin phrase “ars poetica” is translated “on the art of poetry” in English. And art by definition allows the imagination to speak. Art shows.

Q: So how does poetry show?

A: Let’s explore.

To begin, compare a poem to the unexpected and you will begin to see the art of poetry:

A poem is an orange balloon against the blue sky.

A poem is a gift-wrapped pair of well-worn sneakers.

A poem is a baby crying at the end of a nap.

A poem is a collection of musical notes.

A poem is a silver spoon diving into vanilla ice cream.

A poem is honey on the tongue.

Keep going…

Think about how the poem infuses the senses and you will begin to “show” the art of poetry. Generate ideas by answering the following questions:

How does poem sound?

Example – A poem is river tumbling stones.

How does a poem look?

Example – A poem is a glass tower in gloaming.

How does a poem feel to the touch?

Example – A poem is nestled in velvet and fingertips stroking bark.

How does a poem taste?

Example – A poem is cayenne smothered in chocolate.

How does a poem smell?

Example – A poem is honeysuckle on a warm spring day.

Where does a poem take the reader?

Example -…to stars hanging in night sky.

Gather more fodder by imagining a series of “what if” scenarios…

If your poem was on the moon, how would it survive?

If your poem was on stage, what would it wear and how would it act?

If your poem was a bird, what would it see?

What if your poem went exploring?

Keep imagining until you have a page of ideas.

Now, began by crafting your ideas to single sentences that describe the art of poetry and the essence of a poem:


A poem is the clap of rain, the trumpet of thunder and takes me to stars hanging in the night sky.

Next, break each sentence into poetic phrases. Feel free to make little word adjustments as you craft your line breaks:

A poem is

clap of rain,

trumpet of thunder,

and painter of stars

clinging to the night sky.

As you see, each sentence will be crafted to a single stanza. Try another and another. Soon you will have your Ars Poetica.


Archibald MacLeish “Ars Poetica” (1926)

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.


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