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Ammons papers establish new literary collection at Joyner Library

GREENVILLE, NC   (Apr. 26, 2007)   —   The donation of correspondence, manuscripts and artwork by acclaimed North Carolina-born poet A.R. Ammons has established the Overcash-Wright Literary Collection at East Carolina University.

The collection will be housed in Special Collections at J.Y. Joyner Library. Reid Overcash and his wife, Susan, the donors of the Ammons’ works, were honored April 25 with a small reception at the library.

The collection, which includes personal correspondence and manuscripts as well as 15 watercolor paintings, is an excellent look into how Ammons worked, Overcash said.

“There are in-depth manuscripts, works in progress, private and business correspondence,” Overcash said. “It’s the best part of his personal correspondence.”

Overcash had purchased the watercolors painted by Ammons more than 25 years ago. He combined the written materials with the watercolors to make a more complete collection for donation.

He obtained the Ammons papers from Dr. Stuart Wright, who lives in Ludlow, England. Overcash and Wright have been friends since they were children growing up in Roxboro.

Overcash said of his friend, “He really is the collector. He knew Ammons and other literary figures. He did business with them; he collected most of this.”

The appraised value of the donation is approximately $165,000; however, the value for scholars will be much more, said Maurice York, interim director of ECU’s Special Collections.

“To have a student inspired by someone else’s work. That’s the most important thing we can accomplish,” York said. “The collection might open students’ eyes to the types of library materials they didn’t know existed here, and it could change someone’s life. Not everything is on the Internet.”

A native of Whiteville, Ammons was born in 1926 and graduated from Wake Forest College. He began writing poetry while serving onboard a U.S. naval destroyer during World War II.

Before arriving to teach at Cornell University in 1964, Ammons attended graduate school at the University of California-Berkeley and worked several non-poetry related jobs, including elementary school principal in Cape Hatteras and real estate salesman.

His first book of poetry was published in 1955.

When he died at age 75, in 2001, Ammons was Cornell University’s Goldwin Smith Professor of Poetry emeritus and had won virtually ever major prize for poetry in the United States, including two National Book Awards – one in 1973 for “Collected Poems, 1951-1971” and another in


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