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October 28th, 1996 92nd St. Y From the Academy Audio Archive

About this poet

Archie Randolph Ammons was born outside Whiteville, North Carolina, on February 18, 1926. He started writing poetry aboard a U. S. Navy destroyer escort in the South Pacific. After completing service in World War II, he attended Wake Forest University and the University of California at Berkeley.

He went on to work as an elementary school principal, a real estate salesman, an editor, and an executive in his father's biological glass company before he began teaching at Cornell University in 1964.

Ammons published his first book of poems, Ommateum: With Doxology, in 1955. He went on to publish nearly thirty collections, including Bosh and Flapdoodle (W. W. Norton, 2005); Glare (1997); Garbage (1993), which won the National Book Award and the Library of Congress's Rebekah Johnson Bobbitt National Prize for Poetry; A Coast of Trees (1981), which received the National Book Critics Circle Award for Poetry; Sphere (1974), which received the Bollingen Prize; and Collected Poems 1951-1971 (1972), which won the National Book Award.

About Ammons, the poet Richard Howard has said, "Ammons is our Lucretius, swerving and sideswiping his way into the nature of things, through domestic doldrums, cardinals and quince bushes, fields of sidereal force, out into what he so accurately calls 'joy's surviving radiance.'"

His honors included the Academy's Wallace Stevens Award, the Poetry Society of America's Robert Frost Medal, the Ruth Lilly Prize, and fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the MacArthur Foundation, and the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

He lived in Ithaca, New York, where he was Goldwin Smith Professor of Poetry at Cornell University until his retirement in 1998. Ammons died on February 25, 2001.


Selected Bibliography

Poetry

Ommateum: With Doxology (1955)
Expressions of Sea Level (1964)
Corsons Inlet (1965)
Tape for the Turn of the Year (1965)
Northfield Poems (1966)
Selected Poems (1968)
Uplands (1970)
Briefings: Poems Small and Easy (1971)
Collected Poems: 1951-1971 (1972)
Sphere: The Form of a Motion (1974)
Diversifications (1975)
Highgate Road (1977)
The Selected Poems: 1951-1977 (1977)
The Snow Poems (1977)
Selected Longer Poems (1980)
A Coast of Trees (1981)
Worldly Hopes (1982)
Lake Effect Country (1983)
The Selected Poems: Expanded Edition (1986)
Sumerian Vistas (1987)
The Really Short Poems (1991)
Garbage (1993)
The North Carolina Poems (1994)
Brink Road (1996)
Glare (1997)
Bosh and Flapdoodle (2005)
A. R. Ammons: Selected Poems (American Poets Project, 2006)

Prose

Set in Motion: Essays, Interviews, and Dialogues (1996)


Multimedia

From the Image Archive

 

In Memoriam Mae Noblitt

A. R. Ammons, 1926 - 2001
This is just a place:
we go around, distanced, 
yearly in a star's

atmosphere, turning 
daily into and out of 
direct light and

slanting through the 
quadrant seasons: deep 
space begins at our

heels, nearly rousing 
us loose: we look up 
or out so high, sight's

silk almost draws us away:
this is just a place:
currents worry themselves

coiled and free in airs 
and oceans: water picks 
up mineral shadow and

plasm into billions of 
designs, frames: trees, 
grains, bacteria: but

is love a reality we 
made here ourselves--
and grief--did we design
 
that--or do these, 
like currents, whine 
in and out among us merely

as we arrive and go:
this is just a place:
the reality we agree with,

that agrees with us, 
outbounding this, arrives 
to touch, joining with

us from far away:
our home which defines 
us is elsewhere but not

so far away we have 
forgotten it:
this is just a place.

From A Coast of Trees by A. R. Ammons, published by W. W. Norton & Company. Copyright © 1981 by the estate of A. R. Ammons. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

From A Coast of Trees by A. R. Ammons, published by W. W. Norton & Company. Copyright © 1981 by the estate of A. R. Ammons. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

A. R. Ammons

A. R. Ammons

Archie Randolph Ammons was born outside Whiteville, North Carolina, on February 18,

by this poet

poem
When you consider the radiance, that it does not withhold
itself but pours its abundance without selection into every
nook and cranny not overhung or hidden; when you consider

that birds' bones make no awful noise against the light but
lie low in the light as in a high testimony; when you consider
the radiance
poem
Fall fell:  so that's it for the leaf poetry:
some flurries have whitened the edges of roads

and lawns: time for that, the snow stuff: &
turkeys and old St. Nick: where am I going to

find something to write about I haven't already
written away: I will have to stop short, look

down, look up, look close,
poem

I've pressed so
far away from
my desire that

if you asked
me what I
want I would,

accepting the harmonious
completion of the
drift, say annihilation,

probably.