Thursday, March 30, 2006


Well, I’ve been working my way through my A.R. Ammons book (The Selected Poems) and what a surprise – I find that I enjoy his poems more when I read silently. I usually read all poems out loud, since the sensuality of sounds is a major component of poetry enjoyment for me, but Ammons is very different – very cerebral. It is almost as if he is whispering secrets to you through the poems and you can only hear them if you’re very quiet. I know that is a very fanciful way of describing it, but it as close as I can get to explain how I feel.

I think this is a collection that I’ll come back to again and again. Even though he is making me work a bit, whenever I do work, I’m always rewarded.

Here are several poems that I really enjoyed straight off when I picked up the book again today, to read a few more:


I said I will find what is lowly
and put the roots of my identity
down there:
each day I'll wake up
and find the lowly nearby,
a handy focus and reminder,
a ready measure of my significance,
the voice by which I would be heard,
the wills, the kinds of selfishness
I could
freely adopt as my own:

but though I have looked everywhere,
I can find nothing
to give myself to:
everything is

magnificent with existence, is in
surfeit of glory:
nothing is diminished,
nothing has been diminished for me:

I said what is more lowly than the grass:
ah, underneath,
a ground-crust of dry-burnt moss:
I looked at it closely
and said this can be my habitat: but
nestling in I
below the brown exterior
green mechanisms beyond the intellect
awaiting resurrection in rain: so I got up

and ran saying there is nothing lowly in the universe:
I found a beggar:
he had stumps for legs: nobody was paying
him any attention: everybody went on by:
I nestled in and found his life:
there, love shook his body like a devastation:
I said
though I have looked everywhere
I can find nothing lowly
in the universe:

I whirled though transfigurations up and down,
transfigurations of size and shape and place:
at one sudden point came still,
stood in wonder:
moss, beggar, weed, tick, pine, self, magnificent
with being!

I love the beggar in this piece, and the line breaks and use of colons haunt me as I try to discover their sense but then decide it really doesn't matter! There’s a really interesting piece about him and how he wrote in the Guardian, here.

Winter Scene

There is now not a single
leaf on the cherry tree:

except when the jay
plummets in, lights, and,

in pure clarity, squalls:
then every branch

quivers and
breaks out in blue leaves.

The image of the naked tree quivering to the “squall” of the jay seems both playful and delightful.


When the sun
falls behind the sumac
thicket the
yellow daisies
in diffuse evening shade
lose their
rigorous attention
half-wild with loss
any way the wind does
and lift their
petals up
to float
off their stems
and go

Although the very short lines turned me right off this one at first, the idea of the daisies being “half-wild” due to the loss of the sun, kind of took my breath away – such a simple yet dramatic image.

So, if you don’t know much about Ammons, I recommend you take a look – I’m finding him pretty fascinating.
This web site is a decent place to start.

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