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This review is taken from PN Review 143, Volume 28 Number 3, January - February 2002.

ARCHIE AMMONS: THE TRIPHAMMER BRIDGE A.R. AMMONS, Collected Poems, 1951-1971 (W.W. Norton) $19.95
Worldly Hopes (W.W. Norton) $11.00
Garbage. A Poem (W.W. Norton) $9.00

The poet A.R. (Archie) Ammons (1926-2001) was well published - over 31 books - well-honoured - all of the major literary prizes, some more than once - and well praised by both book reviewers and scholars. The National Award winning Garbage (1993) is garlanded with the usual, slightly weird blurb-speak by which poets praise each other, including Edward Hirsch's judgement that the book is 'an American testament that arcs toward praise'. Harold Bloom, in an essay on Hart Crane, has said that Ammons is one of the heirs to Crane. The reissue of Ammons's work by W.W. Norton in the year of his death is a tangible obituary which outlasts any quotation or eulogy, no matter how fulsome. It helps monumentalise Ammons as a poetic maker.

I'm willing to be proven wrong, but I just don't get it. One problem for me is that his obvious ambition sets him up for a critical fall. The first poem in the Collected is 'So I said I am Ezra' and continues (in his early poems Ammons repeats the title as the first line) 'and the wind whipped my throat/ gaming for the sounds of my voice' and ends with the poet's persona and voice fused as 'I Ezra'. The figure of 'I Ezra' is used again a few poems on in 'Coming to Sumer'. Since there are no other Ezras in poetry but Pound, surely it would have been better to adopt Pound's strategy of a rhetorical peace with ...


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