American Treasures of the Library of Congress: Memory, Exhibit Object Focus

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MacLeish's "Ars Poetica"

1924-1925 Paris
Archibald MacLeish (1892-1982)
1924-1925 Paris
Manuscript Division
Gift of the author (177.3)

On March 14, 1925, poet and former Librarian of Congress (1939-1944) Archibald MacLeish drafted what became his most famous poem, "Ars Poetica"--the ultimate expression of American style "art-for-art's-sake." Written in three units of rhymed double-line stanzas, it makes the point that a poem is an intimation rather than a full statement, having no relation to generalities of truth or historical fact. It ends: "A poem should not mean/but be."

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