A COAST OF TREES by A. R. Ammons


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This slim book of short poems may be the first small, testing jump of a larger impending leap for Ammons--perhaps into the more-than-quasi-religious, into being a kind of Appalachian Donne. Certainly the title poem reads like that of an English divine, a Hopkins (""and we realize/ that whatever it is it is in the Way and/ the Way in it, as in us, emptied full""). Elsewhere, too, Ammons seems to be moving away from the minutely holy (""a standoffishness and reasonableness/ in things finds/ me or I find that/ in them""), away from mere hymning (the inefficacy of ""the held/ air in words' winds""). And he appears to be inching towards an earthier lumpishness of being--with a looser rhetoric to go along with it. All in all, then, these seem to be mature consolidations for Ammons--whose recent work has been very strong on its own terms--and the resulting poems have real punch. In ""An Improvisation for the Stately Dwelling,"" a friend with cancer is ""like a rock/ reversed, that is, the rock has a solid/body and shakes only/ reflected in the water but he shakes/ in body only,/ his spirit a boulder of light/ nature/ includes too much/ and art can't include enough."" Likewise, ""In Memoriam Mae Noblitt,"" ""Density,"" ""Distraction,"" and ""White Dwarf"" are all major poems, free of the wisdom-teasing that Ammons occasionally still curls into, even here. So: a tantalizing collection--for itself, and for what perhaps will follow.

Pub Date: April 27th, 1981
Publisher: Norton