Monday, July 17, 2006

I make no form of formlessness.


I have told you briefly, before, about how glad I am to have been at Cornell at the same time as Archie Ammons, even if I didn't know him. The semester after his death, I was assigned to his office with several other graduate instructors who were only teaching during the fall semester. I spent a lot of that semester thinking about Archie's absence.

This morning, I came across his poem "Corsons Inlet" in the Poetry Daily Archive (a great resource, by the way). I know that I have read this poem in the past, but it had a lovely, thrilling effect on me all over again this morning, making me realize that I must never really have known the poem before.

In the poem, the speaker recalls his morning walk. Here are two of my favorite bits, along with a link to the whole poem. (My copy of Ammons's Collected Poems 1951-1971 is stuck full of black and white snapshots I took on my way home from campus one snowy, icy evening while I was writing my dissertation. I know that one reason I love Ammons is that he and his verses so loved a place that I have loved so much too.)


from Corsons Inlet

the walk liberating, I was released from forms,
from the perpendiculars,
        straight lines, blocks, boxes, binds
of thought
into the hues, shadings, rises, flowing bends and blends
                  of sight:

                        I allow myself eddies of meaning:
yield to a direction of significance
running
like a stream through the geography of my work:
      you can find
in my sayings
                       swerves of action
                       like the inlet's cutting edge:
                  there are dunes of motion,
organizations of grass, white sandy paths of remembrance
in the overall wandering of mirroring mind:

but Overall is beyond me: is the sum of these events
I cannot draw, the ledger I cannot keep, the accounting
beyond the account:

(and then, the end of the poem)

                I see narrow orders, limited tightness, but will
not run to that easy victory:
                still around the looser, wider forces work:
                I will try
          to fasten into order enlarging grasps of disorder, widening
scope, but enjoying the freedom that
Scope eludes my grasp, that there is no finality of vision,
that I have perceived nothing completely,
                that tomorrow a new walk is a new walk.

-- A. R. Ammons


You should go read the rest of the poem. I have given you only the briefest of tastes.

The diagrams of formes and impositions I studied today make my head spin; two nights ago, I dreamed that I was sitting a massive math exam--on beyond calculus, even--because that's what so much of this bibliography material feels like to me. It's not an unwelcome feeling. Sometimes I miss using that part of my brain on a regular basis, I for whom numbers and formulae also used to sing.

As if on cue, the buzzer on my dryer alerts me that I should be folding clothes now.

source for tonight's image: New Jersey's Department of State's Archive.

4 Comments:

Blogger Miscellanie said...

I've been carrying this one in my purse lately! It's coffee and rain stained.

How well he takes his time in it.

4:46 PM, July 18, 2006  
Blogger Dr. S said...

Any friend of Ammons's poetry is a friend of mine. I'm in New York soon!

4:49 PM, July 18, 2006  
Blogger Ivy League Temp said...

I was assigned this poem in my freshman writing seminar at Cornell in the fall of 1998. I agree that there was something special about being in Goldwin Smith at the same time that A.R. Ammons still inhabited its halls. I think they should start making t-shirts with lines from Ammons as an alternative to those "Ithaca is Gorges" t-shirts. By the way, I found this blog through Nick Davis's blog and proceeded to read through the archives. You are a superb writer. I especially like what you have to say about solitude and your shots of flowers. A flower is an object that tends to be so overdone in art that one wonders how anyone could possibly depict one in an original way, yet each of your images tends to startle with something unexpected.

5:51 PM, July 24, 2006  
Blogger Dr. S said...

Thanks for doing all that reading! I'm glad you enjoyed it, and I'm particularly glad you like the flower shots.

Several years ago--when I was still at Cornell, in fact--I thought about trying painting. I was interested in learning to paint with oils and in learning to paint flowers. I imagined myself painting coneflowers over and over and over, on bright blue backgrounds. I never did try it, but I think with the flower photography this year I satisfied that urge to pictorialize them.

I would wear an Archie Ammons t-shirt, for real.

10:09 PM, July 24, 2006  

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