Garbage: A Poem

by A. R. Ammons

Paperback, 1994






W W Norton & Co Inc., (1994)


In his first book of new poetry since Sumerian Vistas (1987), A. R. Ammons, one of America's greatest living poets, uses an unlikely subject - garbage - as the occasion for a profound and often funny meditation on nature and mutability. Driving along I-95 in Florida the poet sights a smoldering mountain of the stuff and is moved to muse: "garbage has to be the poem of our time because / garbage is spiritual, believable enough to get our attention, getting in the way, piling up, stinking, turning brooks brownish and / creamy white: what else deflects us from the / errors of our illusionary ways..." Ammons proceeds to evoke with his unique blend of intellectual rigor and American sublimity the impersonal beauties of natural processes both microscopic and cosmic, including ruefully amusing observations on the vagaries of aging.He asks what place poetry and language might have in this vast system and finds startling correspondences: "our language is something to write home about; / but it is not the world: grooming does for / baboons most of what words do for us." Never has the dreadful sundry of this world inspired such beauties of thought and expression. Already the subject of intense discussion following its partial publication in American Poetry Review, Garbage is A. R. Ammons's finest long poem since Tape for the Turn of the Year (1965). (Both poems were composed on adding machine tape.) It reaffirms the estimate of his work delivered on the presentation of the National Book Critics Circle Award in Poetry for 1981 for Lake Country Effect, that he "stands in the tradition of Wordsworth, Emerson, and Whitman," creating poetry "remarkable for its radiant density of argument and feeling."… (more)


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