Two new collections of poems by A.R. Ammons published
Two new collections of poems by the late A.R. Ammons, both edited by ECU English professor Alex Albright, have recently been published by small presses in Kentucky and eastern North Carolina.
Ammons, who grew up on a subsistence farm near the southeastern North Carolina town of Whiteville, published 27 collections of poetry, before his death in 2001. For nearly 50 years a distinguished poet and professor at Cornell University, he received virtually every national award available to American poets, including two National Book Awards and the Bolligen and Ruth Lilly prizes. In 1981, he was one of the original recipients of the MacArthur Fellowship.
The "North Carolina Poems," by A.R. Ammons, is a revised and expanded edition of a book published in 1994 by North Carolina Wesleyan College Press but long since out of print. The new edition, published by Broadstone Books of Frankfort, Ky., includes several poems that were published in Ammons’ books that came out after 1994, two poems not previously collected, and a new afterword by Albright. Jonathan Greene, who also designed the original “North Carolina Poems,” designed this collection.
Broadstone Books publisher Larry Moore said, "I am delighted to bring back this favorite work by a master American poet in this new edition. At a time when the term 'traditional values' is so abused and corrupted, it is essential that we be reminded of the truth of those values in such simple, quiet, elegant verse."
"The Mule Poems," by A.R. Ammons, is a limited edition chapbook of seven poems hand-stitched to a letterpress cover with 15 illustrations by ECU art professor Joan Mansfield. It was designed by Eva Roberts, an art professor at Meredith College.
Roberts was the original art director for the North Carolina Literary Review, which Albright founded in 1991 and for which Ammons was staff poet from 1991-96.
"Mules for Ammons came to be a poignant symbol of the old farming ways of life that he so much missed," said Albright, "especially after he became so isolated from the South in his adult life. He often said all of his poems were North Carolinian because he was, and the farming life he came of age in, during the Great Depression, is the subject of much of that poetry."
Ammons told an interviewer in 1980 that when he was a young boy, he wished to "grow up to be rich enough to buy a nice mule — I used to dream of having this frisky, wonderful mule, and it seemed to me the greatest thing in the world would be to be able to own one."
"Instead," said Albright, "he wrote these beautiful heart-rending poems about the mules his family owned, Kate and Silver."
"The Mule Poems" is the first book published by R.A. Fountain, the small business run by Albright and his wife, Elizabeth, in the western Pitt County town of Fountain. It includes three previously unpublished poems.
Both books are available at University Book Exchange in Greenville, at Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh, and at R.A. Fountain, both in-store in Fountain and via its e-store at http://rafountain.com/catalog/
Publication events for the two books are scheduled for Nov. 14 at 2 p.m. at Quail Ridge Books and for Dec. 3 at UBE as part of the Greenville arts community's Christmas Art Walk.
The Special Collections Department at Joyner Library holds the A.R. Ammons Papers, which includes writings, photographs, manuscripts and published literary works, audio recordings, original watercolors, and other items by and about North Carolina poet and educator A.R. Ammons. The collection contains 713 items containing 21,539 sheets of material.