Saturday, 30 of August of 2014

A.R. Ammons – Corsons Inlet


 
 
 

What this poem is about:

“In his best poems Ammons demonstrates the creative value of the alienated intelligence. He turns his burden to a levity with a truly happy tolerance between precept and particular.

One of Ammons’s most famous poems, “Corsons Inlet” (Collected Poems 149-51), is constructed on just such a rhetorical model of appositional rather than organic or hierarchical relations between nature and mind. This “mirroring mind” is not mimetic so much as congruent, finding coordinates to match, not copy, the particulars of the landscape.

Though haunted by the mind’s ambition to totalize, by the quest for scope, it does not submit “reality to precept,” nor precept to reality. The particular does not so much illustrate precept as help to shape it.

Like Snyder, Ammons celebrates process in mind and nature, but Ammons does not identify mental and organic process. The walk is a refreshment of form and, paradoxically, a heightening of the temporality of thought through the spatial openness of landscape.”

(from “The Soil & Man’s Intelligence: Three Contemporary Landscape Poets.” Contemporary Literature 30:3 (Fall 1989): 412-433.)

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
I went for a walk over the dunes again this morning
to the sea,
then turned right along
the surf
rounded a naked headland
and returned

along the inlet shore:

it was muggy sunny, the wind from the sea steady and high,
crisp in the running sand,
some breakthroughs of sun
but after a bit

continuous overcast:
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:

yield to a direction of significance
running
like a stream through the geography of my work:
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 allow myself eddies of meaning:
I cannot draw, the ledger I cannot keep, the accounting
beyond the account:

in nature there are few sharp lines: there are areas of
primrose
more or less dispersed;
disorderly orders of bayberry; between the rows
of dunes
you can find
irregular swamps of reeds
though not reeds alone, but grass bayberry yarrow, all…
predominantly reeds:

I have reached no conclusions, have erected no boundaries,
shutting out and shutting in, separating inside
from outside: I have
drawn no lines:
as

manifold events of sand
change the dune’s shape that will not be the same shape
tomorrow,

so I am willing to go along, to accept
the becoming
thought, to stake off no beginnings or ends establish
no walls:

by transitions the land falls from grassy dunes to creek
to undercreek: but there are no lines though
change in that transition is clear
as any sharpness: but “sharpness” spread out,
allowed to occur over a wider range
than mental lines can keep:

the moon was full last night: today, low tide was low:
black shoals of mussels exposed to the risk
of air
and, earlier, of sun,
waved in and out with the waterline, waterline inexact,
caught always in the event of change:
a young mottled gull stood free on the shoals
and ate
to vomiting: another gull, squawking possession, cracked a crab,
picked out the entrails, swallowed the soft-shelled legs, a ruddy
turnstone running in to snatch leftover bits:

risk is full: every living thing in
siege: the demand is life, to keep life: the small
white blacklegged egret, how beautiful, quietly stalks and spears
the shallows, darts to shore
to stab — what? I couldn’t
see against the black mudflats–a frightened
fiddler crab?

the news to my left over the dunes and
reeds and bayberry clumps was

fall: thousands of tree swallows
gathering for flight:
an order held
in constant change: a congregation
rich with entropy: nevertheless, separable, noticeable
as one event,
not chaos: preparations for flight from winter
cheet, cheet, cheet, cheet, wings rifling the green clumps
beaks
at the bayberries
a perception full of wind, flight, curve,
sound:
the possibility of rule as the sum of rulelessness:
the “field” of action
with moving, incalculable center:

in the smaller view, order tight with shape:
blue tiny flowers on a leafless weed: carapace of crab:
snail shell:
pulsations of order
in the bellies of minnows: orders swallowed
broken down, transferred through membranes
to strengthen larger orders: but in the large view, no
lines or changeless shapes: the working in and out, together
and against, of millions of events: this,
so that I make
no form of
formlessness:

orders as summaries, as outcomes of actions override
or in some way result, not predictably (seeing me gain
the top of a dune,
the swallows
could take flight–some other fields of bayberry
could enter fall
berryless) and there is serenity:

no arranged terror: no forcing of image, plan,
or thought:
no propaganda, no humbling of reality to precept:

terror pervades but is not arranged, all possibilities
of escape open: no route shut, except in
the sudden loss of all routes:

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.
 
 

 
 
 

AR Ammons reading his poem ‘Corsons Inlet’


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