"A Poem Should Not Mean But Be"

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Context: "Ars Poetica," stating the dictum of the new critics, an organic theory of poetry, through a number of similes leads up to the inevitable statement that a poem should be, not mean. "A poem should be wordless/ As the flight of birds." It is not merely a speaking agent but a self-contained power, autonomous in nature. The poet compares a poem to the motionless climb of the moon which, slowly, imperceptibly rising, leaves the forest silhouetted against the sky. Comparably, the poem with an imperceptible artistry works its natural effect upon the mind. It calls attention to memory by memory as the moon discovers twig by twig of the silhouetted trees. A poem is an experience which stands on an equal footing with other experiences. "A poem should be equal to:/ Not true." A poem should be

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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