Making “Ammons” with Nature in “Corson’s Inlet”

A.R. Ammons is a master when it comes to making sense out of the senseless in “Corson’s Inlet.” In his poem he narrates his walk along Corson’s Inlet and describes everything he sees along the way. He begins by describing that he is escaping the rigid walls of our human world into nature when he says, “I was released from forms,/from the perpendiculars/straight lines, blocks, boxes, binds/of thought” (13-16). This is probably how most of us feel when we are constrained to the rigid thought processes of close reading poetry.

As the speaker walks further into nature he discovers that the forms he could once understand and control are no longer susceptible to his grasp of intellectual understanding. He says, “but Overall is beyond me: is the sum of these events/I cannot draw, the ledger I cannot keep, the accounting beyond account:” (30-32). This seems to be his general point in this poem. Ammons has no grasp of the occurrences of nature, which are transitively the occurrences of the universe. Ammons implies he is talking about the universe when he capitalizes the “O” in “overall.

Ammons also mentions the word entropy in this poem. Entropy is a scientific law that states that all things in the universe are deteriorating with time; everything is becoming more disorganized “the dune’s shape that will not be the same shape tomorrow” (47-48). Ammons also makes a clear distinction between entropy and chaos “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:” (79-85). Chaos is nothingness. Chaos has no order. Although entropy is becoming more disordered, there is an order to the way it becomes disordered. The relationship between order and disorder is an intricate one in “Corson’s Inlet.” The speaker understands this relationship as well when he says, “the working in and out, together/and against, of millions of events: this,/so that I make/no form of/formlessness:” (102-106). There is no sense in trying to understand what is going around the speaker because it is too vast and random to formulate into a precise logical occurrence.

Things change and the speaker must go with the flow in the way that the dune’s sand do when presented with the force of wind. The speaker summarizes his walk at the end of the poem and summarizes the poem itself in the last few lines, “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” (123-128). There is some invisible force that drives everything that is going around the speaker. This might entice him into thinking there would be some way that he could possibly comprehend it all but he is wise enough to understand that there is no sense in doing so because tomorrow it will all be different. The natural world in which the speaker dwells is different from the lines of poetry or prose that he alludes to in the beginning of his poem. They lines do not move. Literature can be studied because it remains stationary, whereas the world around him is constantly moving and changing and becoming less orderly. This is the realization that the speaker comes to by the end of his walk.

3 thoughts on “Making “Ammons” with Nature in “Corson’s Inlet”

  1. I think it’s really interesting that you’ve equated the speaker’s escape into the natural world as an escape from the confines of writing poetry, or for readers, of close-reading poetry. I wonder if the last few lines about the changing nature of the natural world might also be a metaphor for the experience of reading poetry? The speaker says that he “perceive[s] nothing completely, / that tomorrow a new walk is a new walk,” which I think can actually be interpreted as describing how literature actually does change. The actual words of the text don’t change, that’s very true, but readings and interpretations of that text can vary, even in one person. The speaker may be saying that it’s impossible to completely comprehend the meaning of a text, and that tomorrow he may have a different view of it than he does today.

  2. As I read your blog post I realized that I did not entirely recall the tone of “Corson’s Inlet” nor did have it in front of me. Curious however I read on and reached your section explaining “entropy,” and I appreciated how you handled this. You turned the definition of this one word to explain the overall sense of controlled disorder in the poem. This idea of randomness also relates to the workings of the speaker’s mind. I love the distinction you make between “chaos” and “entropy” and I believe it is an important one. The speaker is able to make some sense of the “invisible force” of the world. Although “entropy” is not the literal tone of the poem, it contributes to the overall sense of delightful disorder.

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