how does a poem mean

For WHAT DOES THE POEM MEAN? is too often a self-destroying approach to poetry. A more useful way of asking the question is HOW DOES A POEM MEAN? Why does it build itself into a form out of images, ideas, rhythms? How do these elements become the meaning? How are they inseparable from the meaning? As Yeats wrote:

        body swayed to music, O quickening glance,
        How shall I tell the dancer from the dance?

What the poem is, is inseparable from its own performance of itself.

—John Ciardi, How Does a Poem Mean? (Houghton Mifflin, 1960)

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