A. R. Ammons
|A. R. Ammons|
Ammons in 1998
February 18, 1926|
near Whiteville, North Carolina
|Died||February 25, 2001
Ithaca, New York
|Occupation||poet, columnist, essayist|
|Education||Wake Forest University
University of California, Berkeley
Archie Randolph Ammons (February 18, 1926 – February 25, 2001) was an American poet who won the annual National Book Award for Poetry in 1973 and 1993. He wrote about humanity's relationship to nature in alternately comic and solemn tones. Among the topics often addressed by Ammons in his poetry, those of religious and philosophical concern are visited in his works as are many scenes involving nature, almost in a Transcendental fashion. According to one 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 [Emily] Dickinson."
Ammons grew up on a tobacco farm near Whiteville, North Carolina, in the southeastern part of the state. He served in the U.S. Navy during World War II, stationed on board the U.S.S. Gunason, a battleship 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.
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. A school in Miami, Florida was named after him.
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 1971 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, 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".
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".
As far as topics often addressed by Ammons, those of religious and philosophical concern are visited in his works as are many scenes involving nature, almost in a Transcendental fashion. According to Daniel Hoffman, who wrote a book review on Ammons, stated that 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 [Emily] Dickinson."
- Works published before 1970 do not have ISBN.
- Ommateum, with Doxology. Philadelphia: Dorrance, 1955.
- 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)
- 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
- "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.)
- 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. 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.
- 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."
- "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. Retrieved August 27, 2008.
- "A.R. Ammons Criticism". eNotes.com. Retrieved August 27, 2008.
- Stephen Burt (June 17, 2008). "In Retrospect: Stephen Burt on A.R. Ammons". National Book Critics Circle. Retrieved August 27, 2008.
- Harold Bloom, The Ringers in the Tower: Studies in Romantic Tradition. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1971.
- Diacritics 3 (1973). An entire "essays on Ammons" issue.
- "A.R. Ammons." Poetryfoundation.com.2011. Web. April 18, 2011.
- Wilson, Emily Herring. "The A.R. Ammons I Knew." Wake Forest January 20, 2011. Web. April 18, 2011.
- "A. R. Ammons Audio Collection" Z. Smith Reynolds Library, Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem, North Carolina
- A.R. Ammons Interviewed by David Grossvogel
- "A.R. Ammons Papers, 1935, 1937, 1944-1988, 2007" Reid and Susan Overcash Literary Collection, Special Collections, J. Y. Joyner Library, East Carolina University, Greenville, North Carolina
- "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
- A.R. Ammons Poetry and Translations at the Open Translation Project sponsored by Bryant H. McGill
- "Guide to the Archie Ammons Papers, 1945–2010" Division of Rare and Special Collections, Cornell University Library, Ithaca, New York
- Lehman, David. "A.R. Ammons' Life and Career."
- Lehman, David (Summer 1996). "A. R. Ammons, The Art of Poetry No. 73". Paris Review.
- Modern American Poetry, critical essays on Ammons's works