A. R. Ammons
|Born||February 18, 1926|
near Whiteville, North Carolina
|Died||February 25, 2001 (aged 75)|
Ithaca, New York
|Education||Wake Forest University|
University of California, Berkeley
Ammons wrote about humanity's relationship to nature in alternately comic and solemn tones. His poetry often addresses religious and philosophical matters and scenes involving nature, almost in a Transcendental fashion. According to reviewer Daniel Hoffman, his work "is founded on an implied Emersonian division of experience into Nature and the Soul,"  adding that it "sometimes consciously echo[es] familiar lines from Emerson, Whitman and Dickinson."
Ammons grew up on a tobacco farm near Whiteville, North Carolina, in the southeastern part of the state. He served as a sonar operator in the U.S. Navy during World War II, stationed on board the USS Gunason, a destroyer escort. After the war, Ammons attended Wake Forest University, majoring in biology. Graduating in 1949, he served as a principal and teacher at Hattaras Elementary School later that year and also married Phyllis Plumbo. He received an M.A. in English from the University of California, Berkeley.
In 1964, Ammons joined the faculty of Cornell University, eventually becoming Goldwin Smith Professor of English and Poet in Residence. He retired from Cornell in 1998. His students who went on to achieve acclaim as poets include Alice Fulton and Jerald Bullis.
During the five decades of his poetic career, Ammons was the recipient of many awards and citations. Among his major honors are the 1973 and 1993 U.S. National Book Awards (for Collected Poems, 1951-1971 and for Garbage); the Wallace Stevens Award from the Academy of American Poets (1998); and a MacArthur Fellowship in 1981, the year the award was established.
Ammons's other awards include a 1981 National Book Critics Circle Award for A Coast of Trees; a 1993 Library of Congress Rebekah Johnson Bobbitt National Prize for Poetry for Garbage; the 1975 Bollingen Prize for Sphere; the Poetry Society of America's Robert Frost Medal; the Ruth Lilly Prize; and fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1978.
Ammons often writes in two- or three-line stanzas. Poet David Lehman notes a resemblance between Ammons's terza libre (unrhymed three-line stanzas) and the terza rima of Shelley's "Ode to the West Wind." Lines are strongly enjambed.
Some of Ammons's poems are very short, one or two lines only, a form known as monostich (effectively, including the title, a kind of couplet), while others (for example, the book-length poems Sphere and Tape for the Turn of the Year) are hundreds of lines long, and sometimes composed on adding-machine tape or other continuous strips of paper. His National Book Award-winning volume Garbage is a long poem consisting of "a single extended sentence, divided into eighteen sections, arranged in couplets". Ammons's long poems tend to derive multiple strands from a single image.
Many readers and critics have noted Ammons's idiosyncratic approach to punctuation. Lehman has written that Ammons "bears out T. S. Eliot's observation that poetry is a 'system of punctuation'." Instead of periods, some poems end with an ellipsis; others have no terminal punctuation at all. The colon is an Ammons "signature"; he uses it "as an all-purpose punctuation mark."
The colon permits him to stress the linkage between clauses and to postpone closure indefinitely.... When I asked Archie about his use of colons, he said that when he started writing poetry, he couldn't write if he thought "it was going to be important," so he wrote "on the back of used mimeographed paper my wife brought home, and I used small [lowercase] letters and colons, which were democratic, and meant that there would be something before and after [every phrase] and the writing would be a kind of continuous stream."
- A "normal" range of language for poetry, including the standard English of educated conversation and the slightly rarer words we expect to see in literature ("vast," "summon," "universal").
- A demotic register, including the folk-speech of eastern North Carolina, where he grew up ("dibbles"), and broader American chatter unexpected in serious poems ("blip").
- The Greek- and Latin-derived phraseology of the natural sciences ("millimeter," "information of actions / summarized"), especially geology, physics, and cybernetics.
Such a mixture is nearly unique, Burt says; these three modes are "almost never found together outside his poems".
In contrast, critic J. Mark Smith notes that in long poems such as Garbage, with their "improvised, no-stopping, 'one-time event' compositional procedures," "Ammons works with a continuum of utterance whose central furrows are the most frequently repeated words and phrases in the contemporary American vulgate, but whose far outcastings register the faintest traces of anomalous use." That is, Ammons subjected his own poetic style and its relation to contemporary speech to considerable scrutiny. As Smith puts it, "Ammons's premise is that the process of sorting and grouping (or abstracting) that produces what we commonly call 'garbage' also powers the appearances, disappearances, and re-appearances of words."
- Ommateum, with Doxology. Philadelphia: Dorrance, 1955. Reprinted, with Preface by Roger Gilbert, Cornell University, by W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., New York - London, 2006. ISBN 978-0-393-33054-0 (paperback)
- Expressions of Sea Level. Columbus: Ohio State UP, 1964.
- Corsons Inlet. Ithaca, NY: Cornell UP, 1965. Reprinted by Norton, 1967. ISBN 0-393-04463-7
- Tape for the Turn of the Year. Ithaca, NY: Cornell UP, 1965. Reprinted by Norton, 1972. ISBN 0-393-00659-X
- Northfield Poems. Ithaca, NY: Cornell UP, 1966.
- Selected Poems. Ithaca, NY: Cornell UP, 1968.
- Uplands. New York: Norton, 1970. ISBN 0-393-04322-3
- Briefings: Poems Small and Easy. New York: Norton, 1971. ISBN 0-393-04326-6
- Collected Poems, 1951-1971. New York: Norton, 1972. ISBN 0-393-04241-3 —winner of the National Book Award
- Sphere: The Form of a Motion. New York: Norton, 1974. ISBN 0-393-04388-6 —winner of the Bollingen Prize for Poetry
- Diversifications. New York: Norton, 1975. ISBN 0-393-04414-9
- The Selected Poems: 1951-1977. New York: Norton, 1977. ISBN 0-393-04465-3
- Highgate Road. Ithaca, NY: Cornell UP, 1977.
- The Snow Poems . New York: Norton, 1977. ISBN 0-393-04467-X
- Selected Longer Poems. New York: Norton, 1980. ISBN 0-393-01297-2
- A Coast of Trees. New York: Norton, 1981. ISBN 0-393-01447-9 —winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award
- Worldly Hopes. New York: Norton, 1982. ISBN 0-393-01518-1
- Lake Effect Country. New York: Norton, 1983. ISBN 0-393-01702-8
- The Selected Poems: Expanded Edition. New York: Norton, 1986. ISBN 0-393-02411-3
- Sumerian Vistas. New York: Norton, 1987. ISBN 0-393-02468-7
- The Really Short Poems. New York: Norton, 1991. ISBN 0-393-02870-4
- Garbage. New York: Norton, 1993. ISBN 0-393-03542-5 —winner of the National Book Award
- The North Carolina Poems. Alex Albright, ed. Rocky Mount, NC: NC Wesleyan College P, 1994. ISBN 0-933598-51-3
- Brink Road.New York: Norton, 1996. ISBN 0-393-03958-7
- Glare. New York: Norton, 1997. ISBN 0-393-04096-8
- Bosh and Flapdoodle: Poems. New York: Norton, 2005. ISBN 0-393-05952-9
- Selected Poems. David Lehman, ed. New York: Library of America, 2006. ISBN 1-931082-93-6
- The North Carolina Poems. New, expanded edition. Frankfort, KY: Broadstone Books, 2010. ISBN 978-0-9802117-2-6
- The Mule Poems. Fountain, NC: R. A. Fountain, 2010. ISBN 0-9842102-0-2 (chapbook)
- The Complete Poems of A. R. Ammons, Volume 1 1955-1977; Volume 2 1978-2005: Edited by Robert M. West; Introduction by Helen Vendler. W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., New York, 2017 ISBN 9780393070132 hardcover vol. 1; ISBN 9780393254891 hardcover vol. 2
- Set in Motion: Essays, Interviews, and Dialogues (1996)
- An Image for Longing: Selected Letters and Journals of A.R. Ammons, 1951–1974. Ed. Kevin McGuirk. Victoria, BC: ELS Editions, 2014. ISBN 978-1550584561
Critical studies and reviews of Ammons' work
- Bloom, Harold (1971), The Ringers in the Tower: Studies in Romantic Tradition, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, ISBN 9780226060491
- Diacritics 3 (1973). An entire "essays on Ammons" issue.
- "A. R. Ammons", Poetry Foundation, 2011, archived from the original on April 23, 2016, retrieved April 18, 2011
- Wilson, Emily Herring (January 20, 2011), "The A.R. Ammons I Knew", Wake Forest Magazine, retrieved April 18, 2011
- Chiasson, Dan (December 4, 2017). "One man's trash : how A. R. Ammons turned the everyday into art". The Critics. Books. The New Yorker. Vol. 93 no. 39. pp. 69–72.
- Bevis, Matthew (March 7, 2019). "Gravity's Smoothest Dream". London Review of Books. 41 (5): 31–35. Retrieved April 8, 2019. Review of A.R. Ammons, The Complete Poems.
"National Book Awards – 1973". National Book Foundation. Retrieved 2012-04-07.
(With acceptance speech by Ammons and essay by Christopher Shannon from the Awards 60-year anniversary blog—one "Appreciation" for Ammons' two awards.)
"National Book Awards – 1993". National Book Foundation. Retrieved 2012-04-07.
(With acceptance speech by Ammons.)
- "A. R. Ammons". Poetry Foundation. May 26, 2021. Retrieved August 15, 2016.
- Gantt, Patricia (1992). "The A.R. Ammons Papers: Bits of Resistance Against Time." North Carolina Literary Review 1: 164–165.
- Wilson, Emily Herring (October 2007). "A Poet in Hattaras Village." Our State: Down Home in North Carolina: 204-208.
- "A. R. Ammons".
- Lehman, David (2002). "A.R. Ammons' Life and Career". In Hamilton, Ian (ed.). The Oxford Companion to Twentieth-century Poetry in English. Oxford UP (published 1994). ISBN 0-19-866147-9.
- Patterson, John (1992). "A Dictionary of North Carolina Writers, A-Bl". North Carolina Literary Review. 1: 153–154.
- Daniel Aloi (April 19, 2018). "Colleagues celebrate A.R. Ammons in Temple of Zeus". Cornell Chronicle. Retrieved May 5, 2020.
- Laymon, Rob. "NOTED POET TO INJECT LIFE INTO WORKS IN O.C. VISIT", The Press of Atlantic City, July 23, 1992. Accessed March 29, 2011. "Ammons wrote Corsons Inlet in August of 1962, after having lived in Northfield and Millville for many years."
- Miller, Michael. "Pulitzer Prize poet will read works in O.C."[dead link], The Press of Atlantic City, June 22, 2007. Accessed September 13, 2015. "The late poet A.R. Ammons, formerly of Ocean City, Northfield and Millville, won the prestigious National Book Award."
- The A. R. Ammons Poetry Contest in his boyhood home Columbus County, NC was begun in 1992. http://arammonspoetrycontest.org/about-the-contest/ "Poet A.R. Ammons, twice a National Book Award winner, dead at 75". Cornell News. February 26, 2001. Retrieved September 26, 2008.
- Stephen Burt (June 17, 2008). "In Retrospect: Stephen Burt on A.R. Ammons". National Book Critics Circle. Retrieved August 28, 2008.
- "A.R. Ammons". The Academy of American Poets. Retrieved August 28, 2008.
- "Book of Members, 1780-2010: Chapter A" (PDF). American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Archived (PDF) from the original on May 10, 2011. Retrieved April 17, 2011.
- Lehman, David (2006). "Archie: A Profile of A.R. Ammons". American Poet. Archived from the original on May 17, 2008. Retrieved August 27, 2008.
- Hirsch, Edwatd ' A Poets Glossary' Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Boston 2014 ISBN 9780151011957
- "A.R. Ammons Criticism". eNotes.com. Retrieved August 27, 2008.
- Lehman, David - Interview 'The Art of Poetry' Paris Review no 73 Summer 1996
- Stephen Burt (June 17, 2008). "In Retrospect: Stephen Burt on A.R. Ammons". National Book Critics Circle. Retrieved August 27, 2008.
- Smith, J. Mark (2013). "Getting Every Word In: Garbage and the Corpora". In Smith, J. Mark (ed.). Short Poems, Long Poems, and the Rhetoric of North American Avant-Gardism, 1963-2008. McGill-Queen's UP. p. 226,227. ISBN 978-0-77-354083-5.
- Online version is titled "The great American poet of daily chores".
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- Examples of Ammons poetry
- A. R. Ammons Audio Collection Z. Smith Reynolds Library, Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem, North Carolina
- A.R. Ammons Interviewed by David Grossvogel
- Reid and Susan Overcash Literary Collection: A.R. Ammons Papers (#1096-001), East Carolina Manuscript Collection, J. Y. Joyner Library, East Carolina University
- A. R. Ammons Papers 1944–1987 Southern Historical Collection, Louis Round Wilson Special Collections Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina
- Guide to the Archie Ammons Papers, 1945–2010, Division of Rare and Special Collections, Cornell University Library, Ithaca, New York
- Lehman, David (Summer 1996). "A. R. Ammons, The Art of Poetry No. 73". Paris Review. Summer 1996 (139).
- Modern American Poetry, critical essays on Ammons's works