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Cheesespreadology

Ian Sansom, 7 March 1996

Garbage 
by A.R. Ammons.
Norton, 121 pp., £7.50, February 1995, 0 393 31203 8
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Tape for the Turn of the Year 
by A.R. Ammons.
Norton, 205 pp., £8.95, February 1995, 0 393 31204 6
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Red Sauce, Whiskey and Snow 
by August Kleinzahler.
Faber, 93 pp., £6.99, April 1995, 0 571 17431 0
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The Unemployed Fortune-Teller: Essays and Memoirs 
by Charles Simic.
Michigan, 127 pp., £30, January 1996, 0 472 06569 6
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Frightening Toys 
by Charles Simic.
Faber, 101 pp., £6.99, April 1995, 0 571 17399 3
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The Ghost of Eden 
by Chase Twichell.
Faber, 78 pp., £6.99, April 1995, 0 571 17434 5
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... quack on with a terrible monotony and no pause for the opposite number to get in a word.’ A.R. Ammons’s poetry is a case in point: his massive oeuvre amounts to a kind of giant bulk bin fed by his extraordinary brush-equipped pick-up belt of a brain, which has managed to load and deliver material at a speed of about one collection every two years for ...

Gravity’s Smoothest Dream

Matthew Bevis: A.R. Ammons, 7 March 2019

The Complete Poems 
by A.R. Ammons.
Norton, two vols, 2133 pp., £74, December 2017, 978 0 393 25489 1
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... Well,​ Mr Ammons, it looks as if you really have something here.’ On receiving this verdict from the poet Josephine Miles in 1951, the young Ammons was taken aback: he’d expected ‘bad news’. Yet whatever the something was that Mr Ammons had, it remained hidden from view for some time ...

Charmed Quarantine

James Wood, 21 March 1996

Soul Says: On Recent Poetry 
by Helen Vendler.
Harvard, 266 pp., £15.95, June 1995, 0 674 82146 7
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The Breaking of Style: Hopkins, Heaney, Graham 
by Helen Vendler.
Harvard, 100 pp., £18.95, January 1996, 0 674 08121 8
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The Given and the Made: Strategies of Poetic Redefinition 
by Helen Vendler.
Faber, 137 pp., £7.99, April 1995, 0 571 17078 1
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... to polish a group of them with her calm, uncreased prose – John Ashbery, James Merrill, A.R. Ammons, Amy Clampitt, Charles Simic, Dave Smith, Seamus Heaney, Louise Glück, Jorie Graham and Rita Dove. Vendler is in love with the lyric, indeed so in love with it that she befriends strangers who appear to resemble it: in her collection of ...

Creases and Flecks

Laura Quinney: Mark Doty, 3 October 2002

Still Life with Oysters and Lemon 
by Mark Doty.
Beacon, 72 pp., $11, January 2002, 0 8070 6609 5
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Source 
by Mark Doty.
Cape, 69 pp., £8, April 2002, 9780224062282
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... does not achieve the standard of wit in Merrill (‘Self-Portrait in Tyvek Windbreaker’) or A.R. Ammons (‘There! The Light of Human Reason!’). There are moments in Doty’s poems that make me wince. In Heaven’s Coast, he eloquently praises Whitman’s startling description of grass – ‘And now it seems to me the beautiful uncut hair of ...

At Tate Modern

Nicholas Spice: Agnes Martin , 9 September 2015

... daylight, clarity and emptiness is not prima facie implausible (think of the lines by A.R. Ammons: ‘The noon sun casts/mesh refractions/on the stream’s amber/bottom/and nothing at all gets,/nothing gets/caught at all’) – yet the attributes of a grid are only sufficient for such an association, not necessary. We could think of a grid quite ...

Exotic Bird from Ilford

Robert Baird: Denise Levertov, 24 September 2014

Denise Levertov: A Poet’s Life 
by Dana Greene.
Illinois, 328 pp., £22.99, October 2012, 978 0 252 03710 8
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A Poet’s Revolution: The Life of Denise Levertov 
by Donna Krolik Hollenberg.
California, 515 pp., £30.95, April 2013, 978 0 520 27246 0
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Collected Poems 
by Denise Levertov.
New Directions, 1063 pp., £32.99, December 2013, 978 0 8112 2173 3
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... Mailer remembered Goodman as a ‘tall powerful handsome dark-haired young man with a profound air of defeated gloom’. Levertov was ‘a charming and most attractive dark-haired English girl with a characteristic space between her front teeth … Everyone in Paris liked her. She was pure as a bird, delicate yet firm in conscience.’ Levertov thought ...

Ohs and Ahs, Zeros and Ones

Colin Burrow: Lyric Poems, 6 September 2017

Theory of the Lyric 
by Jonathan Culler.
Harvard, 391 pp., £19.95, September 2017, 978 0 674 97970 3
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... a range of particularly well-chosen lyric poems, from Sappho and Goethe to A.A. Milne and A.R. Ammons, in order to establish its claims. The book also displays Culler’s heritage. He positions himself (at times slightly in the spirit of a cold warrior of the theory wars) against two orthodoxies. On his right flank is the New Critical tendency to treat ...

Vendlerising

John Kerrigan, 2 April 1987

The Faber Book of Contemporary American Poetry 
edited by Helen Vendler.
Faber, 440 pp., £9.95, November 1986, 0 571 13945 0
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Selected Poems 
by John Ashbery.
Carcanet, 348 pp., £16.95, April 1986, 0 85635 666 2
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The Poetry Book Society Anthology 1986/87 
edited by Jonathan Barker.
Hutchinson, 94 pp., £4.95, November 1986, 0 09 165961 2
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Two Horse Wagon Going By 
by Christopher Middleton.
Carcanet, 143 pp., £5.95, October 1986, 0 85635 661 1
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... poetic,’ Vendler limits the development of ‘poetry’ (steadily elided with ‘lyric’) to a re-negotiation of the self’s relationship with shifting ‘reality’. Because she is interested in the nature of renegotiation rather than in the terms arrived at, she is a more literate critic than Bloom. But the same impulse makes her overvalue texts in ...

The Poetry of John Ashbery

John Bayley, 2 September 1982

Shadow Train 
by John Ashbery.
Carcanet, 50 pp., £3.25, March 1982, 0 85635 424 4
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... not one of his more successful works – prose poems are not his forte – has the rather passé air which is both deft and comfortable in his best poetry but somehow not right in prose. You know that emptiness that was the only way you could express a thing? The awkwardness around what were necessary topics of discussion, amounting to total silence on all ...

Social Arrangements

John Bayley, 30 December 1982

The Penguin Book of Contemporary British Poetry 
edited by Blake Morrison and Andrew Motion.
Penguin, 208 pp., £1.95, October 1982, 0 14 042283 8
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The Rattle Bag 
edited by Seamus Heaney and Ted Hughes.
Faber, 498 pp., £10, October 1982, 0 571 11966 2
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... It may owe something also to the rational, non-frenetic American school of poets like A.R. Ammons. It has highly respectable, indeed Coleridgean, antecedents – and Coleridge himself admired and copied Cowper’s ‘divine chit-chat’ – but modern fashion is closer to the mild rambling poems of the Georgian anthology: poets wearing their social ...

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