The aim of all Arts is to please and instruct. Art rouses deep feelings and gives zest to life. In a way it furthers the process of evolution. The unique power of art, its quality is to take the reader out of their personal petty selves.
Poetry is the most sublime of all the classical arts. It is most imaginative and has the highest emotional appeal. Poetry deals with all the noble, gentle and finer emotions and sentiments. It pleases the reader by sorcery of words. It is full of sublimity, solemnity and grandeur. It has profound and permanent appeal for the readers.
Both the poems “ARS POETICA” by Archibald MacLeish and “BEWARE: DO NOT READ THIS POEM" by Ishmael Reed convey more or less similar themes. Archibald MacLeish described the art of writing good and effective poems. It describes the three important rules of imagism, i.e. “be direct, be brief and use free verse”. It also describes that good poetry possess the quality of enduring through the passage of time. The standards of writing good poetry do not change; it remains the same in all languages, cultures and societies. But the main paradox of this poem is that it does not do itself what it preaches. Howard Nemerov observed that,
“One of the hardest things about studying Modern Poetry is that you can write a far more coherent and plausible account from what the poets said they were doing than from their poems. This difficulty is compounded when the poems keep talking about themselves and their intentions for poetry as a whole” (Baker; pp. 154-55).
The main theme of Ishmael Reed’s poem “BEWARE: DO NOT READ THIS POEM" is reading poetry. Reed’s said, “The hunger of this poem is legendary”. It sinks the reader “beyond the reach of his loved ones” and asks everything from its reader. Poet describes that when reader enters into the world of poetry, willingly or unwillingly, poetry intensifies reader’s emotion and thus gives him fuller and deeper life all around. It is a joy, an inspiration and a resource to last a lifetime. It’s meant for ears, as well as for the eyes, and the mind. Thus the reader sinks into it and leaves his dear ones and his friends behind.
The poem “ARS POETICA” by Archibald MacLeish is about the art of writing poetry. It is not easy to define poetry in simple words as nobody can define a flower or a sunset; everybody just enjoys it. MacLeish had used imagist technique and philosophy in this poem. Sequence of discrete images was used in this poem to express the principles and practices of poetry from imagist movement perspective. In the beginning, poet uses imagery to describe, “ enduring of poetry through time”. He said poetry is as inspiring as to see “the flight of birds” or “the moon climbs”. These statements of the poem are paradoxical statements, it depicts that some poems do not communicate anything but actually no poem is “silent”, “mute”, “dumb” or “wordless”. MacLeish actually suggested with these words that meaning of poetry deals with metaphysical objects although the physical substance may sometimes be shown in poetry. According to him poems evoke profound emotions that safeguard them at all times. Thus love, justice, truth, liberty, virtue, mercy, self-sacrifice, the charm of nature and other fundamental ideas and ideals have inspired poets of all epochs and countries. Rhythm, imagination, emotion are woven in the texture of poetry but beauty is its very breath of life. A poet is first and foremost an artist, who fascinates people by witchery of words. The poet emphasizes on the final paradox of the poem “A poem should not mean but be” but it is impossible to achieve. The essence of any poem, beyond it’s meaning, is stimulation of reader’s imagination and widening of his spiritual horizon. Reader willingly follows the poet in his world of images, dreams and visions as the children of Hameline followed the Pied Piper. Poet lifts the reader on the wings of imagination and reveals nature and humanity in all their glory. Imagination can breathe life into the dead bones of old chronicles and annals.
Imagery used in the poem “BEWARE: DO NOT READ THIS POEM" by Ishmael Reed is more complex as compare to “ARS POETICA”. It tells the reader how he can connect with the poetry and how it connects the reader with his inner self. This poem depicted the vanity of all our wishes in the form of vanity of the old woman. All our wishes too disappear into a mirror to become a memory or image when they have to confront with the realities of life, which are, portray as villagers in this poem.
“ARS POETICA” used a direct technique as compared to the complex symbolism of “BEWARE: DO NOT READ THIS POEM”. Although the theme of both the poems describes poetry and importance of presentation but presentation of Reed’s poem is woven with complex symbolism and imagery.
Both of these poems have shown extensive use of metaphor, but the style of presentation is different; ARS POETICA used metaphors directly while Reed’s poem used metaphor as symbols and present the whole idea in symbolic form.
Both poems “ARS POETICA” by Archibald MacLeish and “BEWARE: DO NOT READ THIS POEM" by Ishmael Reed are about the importance of reading poetry and its presentation but both have used different technique to convey their theme. ARS POETICA used metaphors with sequence of images to describe its essence while BEWARE: DO NOT READ THIS POEM used complex symbolism and metaphors to communicate its theme.
Baker, Dorothy, Z. Archibald MacLeish: Ars Poetica and other Observations, Poetries in the Poem, New York: Peter Lang Publishing, Inc. 1997.