A. R. Ammons

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Compare the transformation of commonplace objects in poems by A. R. Ammons and William Carlos Williams.

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The poetry of both A. R. Ammons and William Carlos Williams focuses on commonplace objects and experiences to explore the deeper meanings of human life. Let's look at some poems from each of these poets.

A. R. Ammons's long poem Garbage, for instance, explores the process of writing poetry, the hardships of life, and even spirituality from the unlikely starting point of trash. You might also explore “Cut the Grass” and notice how Ammons takes a such an ordinary activity and turns it into a reflection on the “wonderful workings of the world.” We wouldn't expect anyone to write a poem about runoff, but Ammons does exactly that in his poem with that title, and he uses it to meditate on resistance.

William Carlos Williams also examines commonplace objects and experiences to tease out their deeper meanings. You could analyze the poem “Blizzard,” for instance, in which the poet reflects on anger and solitude. “Winter Trees” describes a moonlit winter landscape and meditates on wisdom. “The Red Wheelbarrow” is a short, simple poem, but it makes readers think about the importance of this tool. “This Is Just To Say” focuses on the speaker's unrepentant consuming of the plums, and it is designed to lead us to contemplate relationships between people.

As you compare and contrast your chosen poems, you should focus on the ways in which each author explores his themes. Ammons tends to write longer poems that reflect on several themes, while Williams usually composes shorter, simpler poems around a single theme. Notice, too, the different styles of these two poets. You might focus on Ammons's long sentences as opposed to Williams's often choppy syntax.

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