The Poem

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

The title of “Easter Morning” refers not only to the Easter-morning walk taken near the end of the poem but also to the spiritual and seasonal renewal that the phrase suggests. The “letter-perfect” Easter morning of the poem comes when the poem shifts from what seems to be a dead end of insurmountable incompletions to a scene in nature that suggests a renewal and rebirth.

The speaker of the poem is clearly the poet himself; A. R. Ammons usually writes in his own voice, and his repeated subject is nature and its processes. “Easter Morning” begins with a startling declaration: “I have a life that did not become/ that turned aside and stopped,/ astonished.” Ammons compares it to a “pregnancy” or a child “on my lap” that did not grow. It is the potential life that he might have lived, the path he might have taken, or perhaps the child he left behind when he grew up and began to think and act as an adult. He returns to the “grave” of this child that is within him and will die with him; the grave “will not heal.” The grave is an end, not a new beginning or an answer to his dilemma.

He returns to his “home country” and finds a similar “return” that also will not heal. He returns to visit all of his uncles and aunts, and his mother and father. The closeness between them is movingly expressed; they are as close as “burrowing under skin.” They are, however, “all in the graveyard/ assembled, done for, the...

(The entire section is 550 words.)

Forms and Devices

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

“Easter Morning” is written in free verse and is divided into verse paragraphs. It is true free verse; there is no syllabic pattern, and there are many run-on lines. The lines are usually short, and at times Ammons isolates one word as a line of verse. Ammons also ignores conventional grammar; there are few periods, and sometimes a sentence runs over a whole verse paragraph. He tends to use the colon as a way of separating sections, ignoring other conventions of punctuation. There is considerable repetition, especially of key words such as “return.” The verse paragraphs are divided into separate parts, and the poem itself is also clearly divided into three parts. There is a section on the child who died, a section on the speaker’s return to his “home country,” and the climactic appearance of the eagles on Easter morning.

The most important device in the poem is the pattern of imagery. The first and second parts of the poem are filled with such negative images as the “stump/ of a child,” the “grave,” “knots,” “incompletions.” Even nature seems dead. The reader sees the barrenness of the air and the “flash high-burn/ momentary structure of ash.” In contrast, there are images of tranquillity in the “wind,” the “brook/ works,” and “the birds are lively with voice.” There is also the closeness of the family, which is seen as “burrowing under skin,” but it is contrasted with the finality of “gone.”


(The entire section is 451 words.)