Famous Poets’ Nature Poetry (8): “Corsons Inlet” by A. R. Ammons

It’s National Poetry Month. But beyond time, my recommendation stands.

Though it take all month, read one poem slowly, deeply, and again. Here’s a good candidate. Twice winner of the National Book Award, A. R. Ammons embraces–and shows us how to embrace–through close attention born of brave openness: freedom, motion, disorder, uncertainty, change, beauty, nature, life. And shorebirds. Gotta have shorebirds.

“Corsons Inlet” by A. R. Ammons – An excerpt from the poem’s mid-section:

. . . 
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 . . .

- from "Corsons Inlet" by A. R. Ammons 
Read the full poem on the Poetry Foundation website, 
quoted from The Selected Poems: Expanded Edition 
(W. W. Norton and Company Inc., 1986)

See also Norton's list of other titles by A. R. Ammons.
IMG_1684_swallow

suspected tree swallow, rocks like dunes, The Glens Trail, Gorge Metro Park, Akron, Ohio, May 2017. Image © by C. L. Tangenberg


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Other posts in my series on famous nature poetry:

  1. Nature Poetry by Famous Poets excerpting Thomas Hardy’s “The Darkling Thrush”
  2. Famous Poets’ Nature Poetry (1): Sun Spots
  3. Famous Poets’ Nature Poetry (1a): “The Sunlight on the Garden”
  4. Famous Poets’ Nature Poetry (2): Elizabeth Bishop
  5. Famous Poets’ Nature Poetry (3): Wordsworth’s Daffodils
  6. Famous Poets’ Nature Poetry (4): Promise of a Fruitful Plath
  7. Famous Poets’ Nature Poetry (5): Of Mice, Men and Rabbie Burns
  8. Famous Poets’ Nature Poetry (6): Hugh MacDiarmid in Scots
  9. Famous Poets’ Nature Poetry (6)–Oh, NOW I Get It!: Hugh MacDiarmid in Scots
  10. Famous Poets’ Nature Poetry (7): Black Legacies
  11. Famous Poets’ Nature Poetry (9): “The Lake Isle of Innisfree”

Writing 201: Poetry, Weekend Potluck

One of my favorite poems, of which there are dozens, is “Beethoven, Opus 111” by Amy Clampitt.

The poem appears in Clampitt’s original anthology, The Kingfisher (Knopf, 1983), and in the posthumous The Collected Poems of Amy Clampitt (Knopf, 1999), which is edited with a foreword by my former poetry professor, Mary Jo Salter, 1997.

In her own “opus” of sorts, Clampitt draws thematic parallels between her father’s farm-bound efforts from her childhood and Beethoven’s compositional work on his opus from Piano Sonata No. 32. The dual spectacle of protagonist passion, fury, frenzy, obstinacy, and the journey of creation/destruction blend with a deeply personal recollection of Clampitt’s father.

Adding her mastery of rhythm, alliteration, internal rhyme, and other sonic devices to unusual word choice, varied allusions, startling use of enjambment coupled with thematic transitions, and circumnavigating phrasal refrains, Clampitt pays tribute to Beethoven’s musical form and artistry while presenting her own.

Prefaced by a quotation from Osip Mandelstam on which the poem builds, and spanning a total of 117 relatively short but densely packed lines, the piece merits reading and re-reading and reading about. In response to coming to view the work as a slice of poetic genius, I have added the poem’s first published home, The Kingfisher, to my Goodreads to-read list.

My first introduction to Clampitt and “Beethoven, Opus 111” came in college with my 4th edition copy of The Norton Anthology of Poetry, also co-edited by Salter, who used it in at least one of my poetry courses, as I recall.

Other, more well-known and beloved poems of Amy Clampitt’s featured there include “Beach Glass” and “The Sun Underfoot Among the Sundews.” As I am a bird lover, her avian poems “The Cormorant in Its Element” and “Syrinx” delight me just as much as the other two, but “Beethoven,” as usual, wins top prize–so far.