Read Tape for the Turn of the Year by A.R. Ammons Online


In the form of a journal covering the period December 6, 1963, through January 10, 1964, A. R. Ammons’s long, thin poem was written on a roll of adding-machine tape, then transferred foot by foot to manuscript. He chose this method as a serious experiment in making a poem adapt to something outside itself. The tape determined both the length of the poem’s lines and when itIn the form of a journal covering the period December 6, 1963, through January 10, 1964, A. R. Ammons’s long, thin poem was written on a roll of adding-machine tape, then transferred foot by foot to manuscript. He chose this method as a serious experiment in making a poem adapt to something outside itself. The tape determined both the length of the poem’s lines and when it ends. Tape for the Turn of the Year is a poem of infinite variety, blessed by the rich resources of one of this century’s greatest poets. By turns witty, serious, lyrical, and meditative, it is at once a superbly entertaining book and a significant literary achievement....

Title : Tape for the Turn of the Year
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780393312041
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 216 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Tape for the Turn of the Year Reviews

  • Jim Elkins
    2019-04-28 06:54

    The Material of Writing Before MaterialityMateriality, material culture, object-oriented ontology, thing studies, actor-network theory -- these are all kinds of theories that pay attention to the thingness of the thing: the physical book, the paper, pages, weight, and texture. My own project, Writing with Images, impinges on these topics whenever I find myself studying texts where the book itself is part of the work's expressive purpose. Anne Carson's "Nox" is an example. Books like Carson's are often assigned to the general category of artist's books, but they have other precedents. An interesting one is A.R. Ammons's "Tape for the Turn of the Year," which was written on a single roll of adding-machine tape. As far as I can discover (I haven't called Cornell, which has the original reel), there is no scan of the tape, and no facsimile edition. The book transcribes the tape, so we don't see Ammons's original monospace typewriter font, and we can only imagine the edges of the paper reel on both sides of the irregularly formatted text. Here is a typical passage. (Note to readers: Goodreads' interface collapses the left-margin spacing, which I preserved when I transcribed this passage. The poem is not left-justified. You can see this same review on LibraryThing, which preserves the look of the narrow lines running down the center of a mainly white page, with the lines differently indented.) 1:26 pm: I feel a little shivery : the cold's making-- forgive me--headway : but I just had a baked ham sandwich, glass of milk & coffee, that to be transformed into whatever ammunition it can : after this, this long poem, I hope I can do short rich hard lyrics : lines that can incubate slowly then fall into symmetrical tangles : lines that can be gone over (and over) till they sing withpre-established rightness : here, I plug on : whatever the Muse gives, I release [p. 143]The wide margins conjure the invisible constraints Ammons gave himself, and he also writes intermittently about the roll itself: he watches it slowly unfurling, and he tells us how he re-rolls the typed portion in an ashtray. He might have heard about Kerouac's "On the Road" scroll, done in the 1950s, and it is just possible he knew about some of the early Fluxus experiments -- but my guess is he didn't know either. He was looking for a full-time job at Cornell University at the time, and his points of reference were writers such as William Carlos Williams, Robert Lowell, Allen Ginsberg, Walt Whitman, and Robert Penn Warren. All that is by way of explaining why it may never have occurred to Ammons to print a facsimile in monospace font with the tape made explicitly visible. He did have an interest in painting, and exhibited several times, but as I imagine it he wouldn't have thought that an image of the typewriter's embossed imprint, or even the red margins signalling the end of the tape is approaching (which he mentions several times; the red margins would have been visible at the center of the coiled tape roll as he worked) would have served any purpose except distracting readers from his voice. On the other hand, as the reader is reminded on every page, the project has a certain duration, requires specific arrangements (he unspools the tape at one point in order to take it with him on a trip out of town), and constrains every thought between its invisible margins. It is therefore a different kind of materiality, one that represents the physical stuff in words rather than images. It's an interesting kind of awareness of the material, unlike the literalism of today's theories, and immune from the preciousness that comes along with high-resolution color scans (as in Carson's book). When he asks himselfwhy do I need to throw this structure against the flow which I cannot stop? is there something unyielding in me that can't accept the passing away of days [p. 87]he doesn't mean the "structure" of the tape, its spools, his typewriter. He means the structure formed by their constraints, as they are represented in the book. That is a crucial, and I think moderate, ambitious, and sensible, alternative to today's insistence on the stuff itself, its mass, its weight, its look.(As a poem, "Tape for the Turn of the Year" feels as though it is in the first wave of postmodernism. It feels almost unedited -- although we don't see strikethroughs or white-outs, if there were any -- and it contains all sorts of unpolished thoughts, including elephant jokes -- I haven't heard those since I was a child -- and space- or time-filling observations, which he excuses by invoking the absence of the Muse. It also has flights of invention, and a wonderful, in the end entirely winning, mode of address to the reader: "reader, we've been thru / a lot together : / who are you?" p. 200. It's as memorable a high-wire act now as it was when I first read it, when Ammons was younger than I am now.)

  • James Murphy
    2019-05-06 04:14

    Beginning on 6 Dec 1963, A. R. Ammons wrote each day on a roll of adding machine tape. The thin strip of paper determined the line length, the length of the roll determined when it ended--10 Jan 1964. Essentially it's a journal in verse vaguely about the end of something and the beginning of something new and the reflections that transition brings about in a sensitive man observing the world about him. He's a poet and considered himself writing poetry. The visual form restricted by the width of the roll looks like poetry. He wrote recording the events of his days with the concision and the verbal freedom of a poet. Mostly it's poetry because he writes in such a way as to use words to reveal and arrest those moments he observed and gave thought to. In fact, he gave us a definition of poetry: "hope rising to motivate strength, the ideal and the abstract taking on flesh." Ammons demonstrates that on each day of his tape. A constant virtue here is the optimism as he records and notes the details before him, making beauty out of everything he sees: the quirks of weather, the way a jay pecks at a sumac head, a cow standing on the sunny side of a barn. All moments glimmer here, they all become objects of joy, the ordinary becomes the miraculous. The power of his reflections and the use of his observations to make tangible art out of the everyday is a towering achievement. One of my favorite passages: "somebody may have written/music before/or after Bach but/it wasn't necessary."

  • Henry Mills
    2019-04-29 04:18

    The spool of A. R. Ammons poem, Tape for the Turn of the Year, is an extended exercise in ars poetica. Through the use of images and form, Ammons builds a case that the hunger to create is channeled from a bodily need and that to indulge in creation is to grasp at the void. The question of whether this is a worthwhile endeavor or not takes a backseat to the practice of creation. In the poet’s case, the act of engaging with language within the finite realm of the spool. As he moves from image to image he discovers the same resilient pattern in everything. Just as you can sample DNA from any cell in your body and find the same code, each image contains evidence that living is a Sisyphean practice. I’ll focus specifically on his use of Indians to illustrate this point and more importantly their progenation in the face of the melting ice caps. Out of the ashes of the Trojans on page 7, Ammons introduces “a warm cycle.” The life and death of generations of Indians. Substitute Indians for any other metaphor found in Tape for the Turn of the Year and his thesis, or rather, his question, holds. “ten thousand years: how many Indians is that, fishing the northern coast, marrying, dying? coming & going, they left no permanent sign on the warming trend:” By inviting the “warming trend” into his question, he confronts the reader in the present with the end that they too face, climate change having passed the point of no return. Consistent with Lucretian physics, the void that is within us all, the space between atoms, dooms us to a temporary existence. Still, Ammons reminds us that our ancestor Indians fished and married, “coming and going”. Lets substitute Indians then for Tape for the Turn of the Year itself. The poem, like the DNA of Indians passing from generation to geneartion, moves from image to image, idea to idea, perhaps not across “10 M” years but certainly across a spool of narrow tape. Ammons mention, specifically of the Sumerians, whose language is our earliest record of the written word, further grounds the relationship between the generations of Indians as metaphor and writing. Throughout the Tape for the Turn of the Year, Ammon references DNA and the proteins that make it up. Their “interlink” he wonders on page 55, “a face of God.” Adenine, Guanine, Cytosine, Thymine. The myriad of combinations these four proteins code, DNA that the Indians pass on and of course, in death, resign. This “warm cycle” metaphor operates on every level. Even Ammons writing works within the tradition of other writers before him. Henry Purcell’s Fairy Queen which also moves from concept to concept, each time leveling it’s previous attempt, Lucretius’s De Rerum Natura which lays the foundation for atomic theory and the idea that no physical thing is permanent as well as every work of ars poetica. Add Tape for the Turn of the Year to this ever-growing pile.

  • Craig Werner
    2019-05-22 02:56

    Returned to this long quirky poem after having first read it in the late 70s, and not much has changed. I love the project: Ammons purchased a roll of adding machine tape, loaded it in the typewriter and set out to fill it up with the flow of consciousness. It was a particularly audacious project since short lines are definitely not his forte. (Check out "Corson's Inlet," a truly great poem, from a volume I plan to return to soon, for the point of reference.) He wrote almost every day from 6 December to 10 January and, not surprisingly, some days were more interesting than others. As he wrote on New Year's Eve, the challenge was to forget alanguagethat could take in allkinds of matter & move easily withlight or heavy burden:a level that could,without fracturing, rise& fall with conception & intensity:not be completely outfacedby the prosaic& not be inadequateto the surges.Sometimes he finds it, usually only intermittently, and there are long stretches where he's reaching. Part of the contract he made with his Muse, who, second to Ammons, is the lead character in the book. Having spent a great deal of time with Robert Frost and Gary Snyder in recent years, I was more aware of the relative abstraction of Ammons' relationship with nature than I'd been previously. He's at his best when meditating on the nature of the patterns that flicker in and out of consciousness, as opposed to the specifics that form or are formed into patterns. And, for a book written in the mid-Sixties, the total absence of social/political context is striking. That's part of what keeps Tape from being a great American long poem. But it is a jazz venture and my respect for that hasn't diminished.Definitely not the place to start with Ammons, but really interesting for anyone interested in what was happening in American poetry in the mid/late 20th century.

  • Rufo Quintavalle
    2019-05-13 01:16

    This starts and ends very well but there is a longish stretch in the middle which reads like a kind of Andy Warhol paean to boredom - a lot of descriptions of the weather and the time of day and what he had for lunch. I guess once he had set himself the challenge of writing every day until his roll of paper ran out he was obliged to run with the form and that some days simply weren't as productive as others. Nevertheless I feel this book would have been stronger had it been shorter. I am used to Ammons' wonderful descriptions of nature and his ability to explore complex thought through simple language; what was new for me was his erotic writing which I am glad to have encountered too. There is good stuff in here and Ammons is someone I always enjoy reading - a bit like Bukowski in that you have to take the bad with the brilliant - but all in all I felt it was not as strong as Garbage which remains my favorite of his works.

  • Matt
    2019-05-20 06:04

    I really don't dislike any Ammons, but this is probably my least favorite. I'm as much a fan of the unhinged and improvisatory as anyone, but with his long poems there's a sprawling arbitrariness sometimes [not always] to the structure that prevents it from packing as much of a punch. Of course, that could very well be the point, and I could very well later think 'what was I thinking?'. But a long-form improv approach can still lead to a more deliberate-seeming structure.[of course, there is a structure here - the days that mark each new section, and the events of the days themselves - but it maybe is a little too transparent for me. sometimes a little more contrivance is what does it for me {structures are contrivances after all, are they not?}]

  • Liz Minette
    2019-05-04 04:14

    I like A.R. Ammons after I read this. Here is a guy who, prior to being hired at Cornell, was kind of a jack-of-all-trades, and as he was writing these 'tape' poems, waiting for that call from Cornell to see if he got the job that he so wanted/needed. I like how too, when he and his wife, went on a day trip to Philadelphia, he took his register recipe tape with him in the car lest the house come to some misfortune and to his long poem inside. This is a bold work, needless to say - writing out your poems on cash register tape and then transcribing in to a book. Out of the box idea for writing & brillant

  • Emily
    2019-05-05 07:09

    This book length poem had moments of extreme beauty, little passages that I read and reread a bunch of times just to capture that moment; however, as cool as the concept was to write on a roll of adding machine tape, I felt that sometimes the concept got in the way. In certain moments it became more about the form rather than the content, or the function. I do still highly suggest reading this book. The moments of beautiful language and ideas definitely outweigh the moments of more cumbersome reading.

  • Seth
    2019-05-13 23:04

    Ammons buys a long spool of adding tape, feeds the outer end of it into his typewriter in mid-December, and adds an entry to his "long, thin poem" daily. The poem ends up being about everything in a baggy, come-what-may sort of manner. Special attention given to weather (cold) and love (w/ the muse & women generally). Whenever the book gets boring, you can just think "he wrote this on ADDING TAPE" and feel better. Very quick read, if you want it to be.

  • Rich
    2019-05-18 01:11

    Ammons being himself, meditating on everything from science to geology and writing. Kind of dense at times, but interesting for it's form. Ammons wrote this book/poem on one absurdly long roll of adding machine tape, giving it the poem its narrow, strip like form.

  • Chris
    2019-05-08 00:07

    Unexpected use of constraints: Written on adding machine tape on a typewriter (thus constricting the width of the line and the length of the poem to interesting effect) as a sort of journal between December 1963 and January 1964.

  • Timothy
    2019-04-26 00:53

    One time I destroyed a man's face using only an Easy Bake Oven.Then I read this book. What a book.

  • David
    2019-05-02 00:12

    Ammons needed to get this out of his system before moving on to real poetry. (He about admits as much here.) Some wonderful moments, but certainly no "Sphere" or "Garbage."

  • Allyson
    2019-04-25 01:49

    Stunning work of poetry.

  • Sandra
    2019-05-06 23:55

    long and skinny