Friday, August 5, 2016

Friday Poem

Art and Environment
Edward Hessler

Today's poem is by A. R. Ammons.

By Dudley Miles (Own work)
[CC BY-SA 4.0 (],
via Wikimedia Commons
Ammons was born February 18 1926 (Whitehall, North Carolina) and died February 25 2001 (Ithaca, New York).  Among his many honors are two National Book Awards for Poetry (1973 and 1993).

I recommend this spirited and engaging interview with Ammons which was published in the Paris Review. It includes comments on some of his poems, on working as a vice-president in charge of sales in a biological glass factory, growing-up, poetry readings, about government support of the arts, and his path to Cornell University.

Ammons begins the interview by asking the interviewer whether he is going to start with what he refers to as the typical Paris Review question, "What do you write with or on?"  And this is where it starts.

In the interview Ammons was asked how he works. His response follows.
"John Ashbery says that he would never begin to write a poem under the force of inspiration or with an idea already given. He prefers to wait until he has absolutely nothing to say, and then begins to find words and to sort them out and to associate with them. He likes to have the poem occur on the occasion of its occurrence rather than to be the result of some inspiration or imposition from the outside. Now I think that’s a brilliant point of view. That’s not the way I work. I’ve always been highly energized and have written poems in spurts. From the god-given first line right through the poem. And I don’t write two or three lines and then come back the next day and write two or three more; I write the whole poem at one sitting and then come back to it from time to time over the months or years and rework it."

Aren’t you going to start with the typical Paris Review interview question, such as, “What do you write with or on?”
All right. [Pause.] What do you write with or on?

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