Archie Randolph Ammons, known as "A.R." to his legions of devoted readers, was an award-winning poet who would have celebrated his 85th birthday today. He was born in Whiteville, North Carolina to a large family who farmed for their subsistence, sang in church and took in oddballs and strays. Ammons went on to serve in the Navy, attend Wake Forest University, and teach elementary school before joining the faculty of Cornell University in Ithaca, NY. As a poet, he was honored for his work with two National Book Awards, a Library of Congress Prize for Poetry, a Frost Medal and a fellowship from the Guggenheim Foundation, among many other prizes.
His poetic journey is actually many journeys from poems about rural North Carolina life to poems about science and engineering. And his story is actually many stories, from his early days on the farm to his later days in the rarefied world of poetic distinction.
As part of the occasional series, “North Carolina Literary Lights,” host Frank Stasio examines the life and work of A.R. Ammons with Alex Albright, a poet and an associate professor of English and Creative Writing at East Carolina University and the editor of several volumes of poetry including "The North Carolina Poems" by A.R. Ammons (Broadstone Press/2010). Also joining the conversation is Roger Gilbert, a professor of English at Cornell University who is currently working on a critical biography of Ammons.