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This review is taken from PN Review 9, Volume 6 Number 1, September - October 1979.

ALL GRIST FOR THE MILL A. R. Ammons, The Selected Poems (Norton) $7.95.

I had better begin by admitting that The Selected Poems was the first of A. R. Ammons's books to have come my way. Because the pleasure and excitement of reading it aroused my curiosity about Ammons's other work-and there was no indication in the book of sources or chronology, nothing that would have helped an uninitiated reader to get an idea of how the selection relates to the totality of this poet's published work-I felt the need to do some homework and complement my reading of The Selected Poems with the Collected Poems 1951-71 and Ammons's most recent collection, The Snow Poems. As far as I can make out from advertisements on the dust covers, even their aggregate of nearly 700 pages doesn't amount to the whole of Ammons's poetic work to date. Yet the sheer bulk and range of their contents demanded more time for digestion than a reviewer can decently take. The effect of yielding to my curiosity was to send me back to The Selected Poems, with some misgivings about the later work and the conviction that a selection was not only desirable but necessary, and not only as a concession to readers who are lukewarm, lazy, or as ignorant as I had been of this poet's work.

If Ammons began with apprentice work, as most poets do, there is no trace of it in The Selected Poems (any more than in the Collected Poems). The earliest poems included are wholly achieved and wholly ...


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