Publishers Weekly, 2005-01-24 By the time of his death in 2001, Ammons had won almost every award a poet can win. A National Book Award, a Pulitzer and a MacArthur "genius" grant (among others) honored his folksy yet intellectually rewarding verse, from sprawling, apparently improvised, philosophically rich book-length poems (Garbage; Sphere) to compact collections of witty and elegant lyric (A Coast of Trees; The Really Short Poems of A.R. Ammons). Begun in 1996 and clearly intended as a unified book, this posthumous gathering splits the difference between Ammons's short and long modes, and retains the virtues of both. Individual poems (each two pages in length) in unrhymed couplets address individual topics (bodily functions; "tree-limbs down" in a storm; A.E. Housman; "leaves from/ the maple by the driveway"; money; a "bathroom window open an inch") then add up to a sadder-but-wiser, resigned-yet-cheerful sequence about old age. Raised in North Carolina, Ammons taught for decades at Cornell in upstate New York: both the Southern twang of his origins and the snowdrifts of his adopted home inform these affecting if sometimes meandering ruminations. As usual, Ammons keeps comic effects close at hand: one poem begins by confusing songs from Wales with whales' songs. And, as usual, Ammons's offhanded manner permits surprising meditations on the nature of art, emotion, the world and the self. (Mar.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
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