MSU professor publishes complete works of Ammons

MSU associate professor of English Robert West has published two edited volumes of the complete works of A.R. Ammons (submitted photo)
Staff Writer

A Mississippi State University English professor has published two edited volumes of the complete works of a respected poet.

“The Complete Poems of A.R. Ammons” was released Dec. 19 by W.W. Norton & Co. The two-volume set is the culmination of more than five years of research by MSU associate professor of English Robert West, and has been favorably reviewed by several publications including The Chicago Tribune, The New York Times, The Washington Post and Publishers Weekly. Publishers Weekly included the volumes on its list of the year’s books for 2017.

West explained the process of putting the book together

“Since no electronic files of the books were available, the entire text of the edition had to be built from scratch,” West said. “To be certain that each poem was presented correctly, I spent a long time studying his papers in the large Ammons archives at Cornell and East Carolina University, and also studied a smaller collection of his papers at UNC-Chapel Hill.”

West became involved in the project after Ammons’ estate and W.W. Norton & Co., Ammons’ long-term publisher, decided there should be a complete edition of the poems.

“People close to the estate were familiar with some editorial work I’d done and asked if I’d be interested,” West said. “Of course I was: he’s a major poet, and I’d admired his work since being introduced to it in college. They suggested I send a proposal; I did, and it was accepted.”

West said his role as editor centered on deciding how the edition would be organized, deal with revisions Ammons made after publication of individual poems and correcting printing mistakes.

Ammons was born in 1926, and was raised on a family farm in Whiteville, North Carolina, spent World War 2 in the U.S. Navy and went to college at Wake Forest University after.

He studied poetry at University of California Berkley and worked several jobs before joining the English department at Cornell University. He died in 2001 after more than 30 years teaching at Cornell.

West holds a bachelor’s degree from Wake Forest University and master’s and doctoral degrees from the University of North CarolinaChapel Hill.