Biography (Critical Survey of Poetry: American Poets)
A. R. Ammons was born Archie Randolph Ammons near Whiteville, North Carolina, in a house bought by his grandfather and situated on the family farm. The main book in the house was the Bible. Ammons’s early experiences on the farm, working the land, helped shape his imagination. The self in his poems appears most frequently in relation to the natural world he knew as a child.
He was his parents’ fourth child. Three sisters were born before him and two brothers after; one sister lived for only two weeks, and both brothers died, one in infancy and the other at birth. Ammons remembered the deaths of his brothers, saying that they accounted in part for the undercurrent of loss and loneliness in his work.
Upon graduation from high school in 1943, Ammons took a job in the shipyard in Wilmington, North Carolina. In 1944, he joined the U.S. Navy, spending nineteen months in service, including time in the South Pacific, where he began writing poems. Returning home after the war, Ammons attended Wake Forest College (his tuition paid for by the G.I. Bill) and graduated with a B.S. in 1949. That year he married Phyllis Plumbo and took a job as principal of an elementary school in the remote coastal community of Hatteras, North Carolina. From 1950 to 1952, he studied English at the University of California, Berkeley. In 1952, he took a position with his father-in-law’s New Jersey medical glassware firm, a job he held for twelve years. He soon began to...
(The entire section is 449 words.)
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Biography (Cyclopedia of World Authors, Fourth Revised Edition)
Archie Randolph Ammons was born on a farm near Whiteville, North Carolina, in 1926, the son of Willie M. and Lucy Della (McKee) Ammons. During his formative years, he was expected to help his father, so although he lived close to nature, it was as a worker rather than as a mere observer. Springtimes he was excused from school early to help with the plowing.
His parents were religious but not highly educated; the only book in the house was the Bible. College did not seem to be an option. After graduating from the local high school in 1943, Ammons worked in a Wilmington, North Carolina, shipyard; the following year, he joined the navy and saw service on a destroyer escort in the Pacific during World War II. There he began writing poems.
Like many returning GIs, he enrolled in college after the war. At Wake Forest University, young Ammons concentrated on scientific rather than literary studies, but his interest in science and familiarity with the Bible contributed to the poetry that he continued to compose. In 1949, he married Phyllis Plumbo; later, they became the parents of one son, John Randolph.
The future poet found a position as principal of a small elementary school in Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, in 1949. In 1951, he decided to pursue graduate study in California; after a year, however, he went to work for a New Jersey firm specializing in the manufacture of biological glass. He rose to the rank of executive vice president of the company before resigning in 1961.
Meanwhile his first book, Ommateum, with Doxology, appeared in 1955 but attracted little attention from critics or poetry readers. His preoccupation with seeing things clearly can be seen even in these early poems, however; words such as “clarity” and “clarify” recur frequently in his work.
His poems of the early 1960’s began to attract critical attention, and in 1964 he accepted the offer of an assistant professorship at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. In Ithaca, as earlier in New...
(The entire section is 871 words.)