| the history of wake forest
if they would favor us with an “encore,” and they—somewhat to
my surprise—sang the Beatles’ popular song “Yesterday,” then and
now one of my favorites.
When I had been an English teacher on the old campus in
1946–1947—between my years in the U.S. Navy and my graduate
studies at Harvard—I had taught a remarkably gifted (but self-
effacing) student from eastern North Carolina named Archie
Ammons. He had subsequently
graduated from Wake Forest,
and I had heard no more about
him until in various magazines
I began to see poems by “A.R.
Ammons” and then to read
books of poetry written by the
same man. Wondering if “A.R.”
was “Archie,” I wrote him at
Cornell University, where he was
teaching, and discovered that he
was in fact the young student I
had known almost three decades
earlier. Our correspondence
led to his accepting an offer to
return to Wake Forest for the
1974–1975 academic year as a
member of the Department of
English and as the University’s
first poet in residence.
A.R. Ammons’ year at Wake
Forest was memorable in unex-
pected ways. “Neither his walk
[across the campus] nor his verse was in measured cadence,” Presi-
dent Scales said, “but in both he achieved a harmony with the land.
He offered encouragement to many people, and at the gentle urging
of his mind a good many students, as well as some ‘closet poets’
from town, rediscovered the agony and the joy of poetry.”
Besides teaching his classes, Ammons scheduled poetry read-
ings on Wednesday afternoons, open to everyone who wanted to
come and read; published a little dittoed paper called “Nickelodeon,”
containing some of the best poems written across the campus and
President and Mrs. Scales pack for Venice
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