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Ars Poetica

Ars Poetica

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Ars Poetica is the name of at least three pieces of literature.


Horace (c. 18 BC)

Ars Poetica (also known as "The Art of Poetry", Epistula Ad Pisones, or Letters to Piso) was a treatise on poetics. It was first translated into English by Queen Elizabeth I. Three quotes in particular are associated with the work:

  • "in medias res", or "into the middle of things"; this describes a popular narrative technique that appears frequently in ancient epics and remains popular to this day
  • "bonus dormitat Homerus" or "even Homer nods"; an indication that even the most skilled poet can make continuity errors
  • "ut pictura poesis", or "As is painting so is poetry", by which Horace meant that poetry (in its widest sense, "imaginative texts") merited the same careful interpretation that was, in Horace's day, reserved for painting.

The latter two quotes occur back-to-back, near the end of the treatise.

See also longest word in English for sesquipedalian.

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Archibald MacLeish (1925)

The best known poem by Archibald MacLeish took its title and subject from Horace's work. His poem "Ars Poetica" contains the line "A poem should not mean/but be", which was a classic statement of the modernist aesthetic. The original manuscript of the poem resides in the Library of Congress.

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Czesław Miłosz (1961)

Nobel Prize winner Miłosz also wrote a poem with this title, though his poem has a question mark at the end of the title.

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