Remembering A.R. Ammons

A. R. Ammons 1926-2001

A. R. Ammons
1926-2001Fifteen years ago today, America lost one of its greatest modern poets. A. R. Ammons, a humble man from rural North Carolina,  started writing poetry while serving aboard a Navy Destroyer in the South Pacific in WWII.

Fifteen years ago today, America lost one of its greatest modern poets. A. R. Ammons, a humble man from rural North Carolina, started writing poetry while serving aboard a Navy Destroyer in the South Pacific in WWII.

His level, conversational style and wry sensibility make his poems accessible and contemporary.  His subject matter varies, and to my delight, he often poetizes the mundane.

The night before last, I found myself in a beer joint conversation with some writer friends––one a Fitbit devotee, another about to embark on an austere Dr. Oz regime. (I was  on my humdrum soapbox for moderation.) Had A.R. Ammons been with us, he might have thrown in a stanza of Aubade. (Bosh and Flapdoodle, 2006).

Here’s to A.R. Ammons, harbingers of swimsuit season, and everyday life!


They say, lose weight, change your lifestyle:
that’s, take the life out of your style and

the style out of your life: give up fats,
give up sweets, chew rabbit greens, raw: and

how about carrots: raw: also, wear your
hipbones out walking. We were designed for

times when breakfast was not always there, and
you had to walk a mile, maybe, for your first

berry or you had to chip off a flint before
you could dig up a root: and there were

times when like going off to a weight reduction
center you had a belly full of nothing: easy

to be skinny digesting bark: but here now at
the breakfast buffet or lavish brunch you’re

trapped between resistance and getting your
money’s worth and the net gain from that

transaction is about one pound more: hunting
and gathering is a better lifestyle than

resisting: resisting works up your nerves
not your appetite (already substantial in the

wild) and burns up fewer calories than the
activity arising from hunger pangs: all in

all this is a praise for modern life––who
wants to pick the subrealities from his teeth

every minute­––but all this is just not what
we were designed for, bad as it was: any way

I go now I feel I’m going against nature, when
I feel so free with the ways and means, the

dynamics, the essentialities honed out clearly
from millions of years: sometimes when I say

“you” in my poems and appear to be addressing
the lord above, I’m personifying the contours

of the onhigh, the ways by which the world
works, however hard to see: for the onhigh

is every time the on low, too, and in the
middle: one lifts up one’s voice to the

lineations of singing and sings, in effect,
you, you are the one, the center, it is around

you that the comings and goings gather, you
are the before and after, the around and

through: in all your motions you are ever
still, constant as motion itself: there with

you we abide, abide the changes, abide the
dissolutions and  recommencement

of our very selves, abide in your abiding: but, of course
I don’t mean “you” as anyone in particular

but I mean the center of motions millions of
years have taught us to seek: now, with

space travel and gene therapy that “you” has
moved out of the woods and rocks and streams

and traveled on out so far in space that it
rounds the whole and is, in a way, nowhere to

be found or congratulated, and so what is out
there dwells in our heads now as a bit of

yearning, maybe vestigial, and it is a yearning
like painful sweetness, a nearly reachable

presence that nearly feels like love, something
we can put aside as we get up to rustle up a

little breakfast or contemplate a little
weight loss, or gladden the morning by getting

off to work . . .

                            — A. R. Ammons


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