A. R. Ammons Analysis

Other literary forms

(Poets and Poetry in America)

Although A. R. Ammons (AM-uhns) is known primarily for his poetry, he also published reviews and essays. Central to an understanding of his work are “A Poem Is a Walk” and his short autobiographical reflection “I Couldn’t Wait to Say the Word.” Ammons’s several published interviews, especially one by Cynthia Haythe, give additional insight into his poetics. Set in Motion: Essays, Interviews, and Dialogues (1996) collects his most important writings about poetry.


(Poets and Poetry in America)

Throughout a distinguished and prolific career, A. R. Ammons observed and presented the particulars of the world while projecting his longing for a sense of unity. He immersed himself in the flow of things, celebrating the world and the self that sees and probes it.

Ammons’s work lies within the Emersonian tradition: He wrote from life without being a slave to any set poetic form. However, more than any other poet since Ralph Waldo Emerson, he developed a transcendentalism rooted in science and in a poetic that includes the self in the work. His epigrams, his short to moderate-length nature lyrics, and his long verse-essays are popular reading among poets.

His many awards include the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference Scholarship (1961), a Guggenheim Fellowship (1966), an American Academy of Arts and Letters Traveling Fellowship (1967), a National Endowment for the Arts grant (1969-1970), the Levinson Prize (1970), a National Book Award (1973) for Collected Poems, 1951-1971, an honorary Litt.D. from Wake Forest University (1973), the Bollingen Prize for Poetry for Sphere (1975), an Academy Award in Literature from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters (1977), a National Book Critics Circle Award (1981) for A Coast of Trees, a John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Award (1981), and the North Carolina Award for Literature (1986). In 1990, he was inducted into the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters. Ammons won the Lannan Literary Award for Poetry (1992), a second National Book Award (1993) for Garbage, the Poetry Society of America’s Frost Medal (1994), the Bobbitt National Prize for Poetry (1994), the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize (1995), and the Wallace Stevens Award (1998). Ammons is recognized as one of the most significant and original voices in twentieth century poetry.


(Poets and Poetry in America)

Bloom, Harold, ed. A. R. Ammons. New York: Chelsea House, 1986. This volume contains eighteen essays on Ammons’s work, plus an introductory essay by Bloom. Among the contributors are contemporary poets John Ashbery, Richard Howard, and John Hollander. Perhaps the central theme of all the essays is that Ammons, like Walt Whitman, is a solitary self in the world.

Burak, David, and Rogert Gilbert, eds. Considering the Radiance: Essays on the Poetry of A. R. Ammons. New York: W. W. Norton, 2005. A collection of essays on Ammons’s poetry, some of which were written by fellow poets.

Elder, John. Imagining the Earth: Poetry and the Vision of Nature. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1985. Elder writes about poets who remember and re-create Earth. His chapter on Ammons is called “Poetry and the Mind’s Terrain.” Elder’s prose is clear and uncluttered; he presents Ammons from the fresh perspective of contemporary poets. Includes chapter notes and an index.

Hans, James S. The Value(s) of Literature. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1990. This book addresses the ethical aspects of literature by discussing three major American poets: Walt Whitman, Wallace Stevens, and A. R. Ammons. The chapter on Ammons is called “Ammons and the One: Many Mechanisms.” In a concluding chapter, “The Aesthetic of Worldly Hopes,” Hans speculates that one of the reasons poetry is not read...

(The entire section is 635 words.)