yeah cool


“Tape for the Turn of the Year” by A.R. Ammons

I’m not really sure where A.R. Ammons stands or will stand in “the canon.”  Despite receiving numerous major awards and grants during his lifetime, he remains (I think) more of a footnote than a figure in 20th century American poetry, a sort of weird bastard of Whitman’s transcendentalism, Stevens’s imaginative powers, and Williams’s colloquial rhetoric.  In fact, the most precise criticism I’ve read concerning Ammons is in comparison to Stevens, when M.L. Rosenthal writes, “There is a great deal of feeling in Ammons; but in the interest of ironic self-control he seems afraid of letting the feeling have its way [as Stevens does].”

This is definitely true of Ammons.  He often writes very “poetic” passages about existence or nature or humanity’s place in nature, only to undercut them with a moment or realization that points to the arbitrary nature of nature, or, frequently, the absurd immateriality and uselessness of poetry itself.  For example, on one page of his book-length work, “Tape for the Turn of the Year,” he writes:


May 1st, 2011 / 5:09 pm