The grousing A.R. Ammons (1926–2001) did a fine Ezra Pound imitation, all those folksy spellings, abbreviations, and typographical idiosyncrasies: In particular, ol’ Archie demonstrated an ungrammatical love for the colon.

Pound badly wanted his individual Cantos to constitute a single long poem, but “I cannot make it cohere,” he wrote. Ammons was just the opposite. For years
un homme d’affaires like Wallace Stevens (glass sales instead of the insurance racket), he had difficulty sustaining force across the shorter distances. But in a late-career triptych—Sphere (1974), Garbage (1993), and Glare (1998)—he discovered a penchant for the book-length poem. Garbage was composed on adding-machine tape— intimations of Kerouac—for the poet’s “own distraction, improvisationally.”

The posthumous collection Bosh and Flapdoodle was born in another don’t-look-back burst, though the author later tinkered with it, as was his habit. He defended this method as that of the ice-skater who practices before a competition but “when she hits the ice it’s all a one-time event: there are falls, of course, but when it’s right, it seems to have been right itself.” Ammons had a wit as dry as a potato cellar. In this last book, he knows that for the benefit of his ticker (which eventually did him in) he ought to eat more vegetables, but “who/wants to pick the subrealities from his teeth”?