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Poetry Moment: 'ars poetica, 2019,' Airea D. Matthews

Airea D. Matthews

This is Poetry Moment on WPSU – a weekly program featuring the work of contemporary Pennsylvania poets. Your host is poet and author Marjorie Maddox, a 2023 Monson Arts Fellow, author of 20 books, and professor of English and creative writing at the Lock Haven campus of Commonwealth University. 

Welcome to Poetry Moment.


Ars poetica—Latin for “the art of poetry”—refers not only to a poem by Horace, but more generally to any poem about, well, poetry. During April, National Poetry Month, you, too, may be wondering, “Why Poetry Month? Why Poetry Moment? What even is poetry?” Today’s work, “ars poetica, 2019, by Airea D. Matthews, provides a delightful and surprising answer.

Airea D. Matthews is the author of Simulacra (2017), winner of the Yale Younger Poets Award, and the newly released Bread and Circus (2023, Scribner). She is an associate professor at Bryn Mawr College, where she co-chairs the creative writing program, and is currently serving as Philadelphia’s poet laureate.

In her famous ars poetica, “Poetry,” the modern poet Marianne Moore begins by confessing, “I, too, dislike it.” She ends, however, by embracing poetry as an “imaginary garden with real toads,” a place where we can all find what’s genuine.

In today’s poem, a woman who is frustrated by poetry asks, “[I]s poetry meant to be/inaccessible?” By way of response, Airea D. Matthews showcases the flash of epiphany, the light of poetry, and the strength and miracle of image.

Here’s "ars poetica, 2019" by Airea D. Matthews

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Previously published in the Virginia Quarterly Review
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That was “ars poetica, 2019” by Airea D. Matthews Thanks for listening.


Listen for Poetry Moment with Marjorie Maddox Mondays during Morning Edition and All Things Considered on WPSU. You can more episodes at

Our theme music is by Eric Ian Farmer.

Marjorie Maddox is the host of WPSU's Poetry Moment for the 2023-24 season. She has been a professor of English and creative writing since 1990 at the Lock Haven campus of Commonwealth University.