My Favorite… Poem

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Want to torture me? Ask me who my favorite AUTHOR is. Or my favorite film. AAHHH! It’s really like asking the old woman who lived in the shoe which is her favorite child. I mean, can she even remember all of them?

But I do have a poem that I love and come back to time and again. Ironically, I can never remember the name. The author said an alternative title suggested by his wife is “The Lowly.”

Well, I’ve decided to put it here, so that I could always find it when I am looking for it.

Oh and I first heard this poem from a guy named Hampton Stevens. Some of my KC friends might remember him. He was a column writer for the Pitch, then moved on to New York City and edited a website for awhile. After that I lost track of him (we were only acquaintances so I haven’t even googled him), but he was the one who read me this poem, probably a dozen or more years ago, at The Cup and Saucer in the River Market (now closed).

Thanks Hampton.

Still

By A.R. Ammons

I said I will find what is lowly
and put the roots of my identity
down there:
each day I’ll wake up
and find the lowly nearby,
a handy focus and reminder,
a ready measure of my significance,
the voice by which I would be heard,
the wills, the kinds of selfishness
I could
freely adopt as my own:

but though I have looked everywhere,
I can find nothing
to give myself to:
everything is

magnificent with existence, is in
surfeit of glory:
nothing is diminished,
nothing has been diminished for me:

I said what is more lowly than the grass:
ah, underneath,
a ground-crust of dry-burnt moss:
I looked at it closely
and said this can be my habitat: but
nestling in I
found
below the brown exterior
green mechanisms beyond the intellect
awaiting resurrection in rain: so I got up

and ran saying there is nothing lowly in the universe:
I found a beggar:
he had stumps for legs: nobody was paying
him any attention: everybody went on by:
I nestled in and found his life:
there, love shook his body like a devastation:
I said
though I have looked everywhere
I can find nothing lowly
in the universe:

I whirled through transfigurations up and down,
transfigurations of size and shape and place:

at one sudden point came still,
stood in wonder:
moss, beggar, weed, tick, pine, self, magnificent
with being!

From The Selected Poems: 1951-1977, Expanded Edition, W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. Copyright © 1986 by A. R. Ammons. You can listen to the author reading it here.

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Elizabeth Howard

Elizabeth writes literary non-fiction, haiku, cultural rants, and Demand Poetry in order to forward the cause of beautiful writing. She teaches and speaks about the rhetorical impact of beautiful writing. A recent transplant to Connecticut, she calls London, Kansas City, and Iowa home. 

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  1 comment for “My Favorite… Poem

  1. March 6, 2011 at 9:51 am

    I love this. And I am exactly like you when someone asks about my favorite author or book. It’s an agonizing question. If you break it down by genre, perhaps I can narrow my favorites to three or four. But to choose ONE favorite author seems almost absurd.

    Perhaps it is easier for people who read less.

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