Part loving biography, part autobiography, When I Go Back to My Home Country, is a deeply felt narrativeof Emily Wilson’s long friendship with the celebrated poet A. R. Ammons. Unsparing in detail about a complex and enduring relationship, this memoir is a compelling account of her admiration and respect for one of our leading literary figures. Emily Wilson is a poet herself, and her story is a vivid and moving tribute, told with both candor and affection.
— Robert Morgan
I love it. It’s right on, heartbreaking, heartthrobbingly good, real, and openly warm and readable.
— Shelby Stephenson
160 pp, trade paperback, with gatefold cover
Includes index, sources, and a timeline
65 black & white photographs & 3 color prints of Ammons watercolors
Full-color cover is a reproduction of Ammons watercolor self-portrait
Design by Eva Roberts
Cover design by Eva Roberts & Stanton Blakeslee
50 individual copies of a limited edition printing of 100 copies are available in a package that includes an original A.R. Ammons watercolor of your choosing. View the available watercolors here, where you can also purchase your choice. 41 of the 50 remain.
In this package:
• a signed, numbered copy from the limited edition printing
• the original watercolor that you’ve selected
• a 6″ x 9.5″ print on archival paper of the Ammons watercolor self-portrait used for the book’s cover, one of 100 copies of a limited printing. Print has on its obvers a photographic potrait of Ammons, signed by the photographer Susan Mullally.
The other 50 individual copies of the limited edition printing of 100 copies are available in a package that includes a signed & numbered copy and the 6″ x 9.5″ print as described above.
Emily Wilson’s superb memoir is a lovely, trenchant, poignant narrative of A.R. Ammons, the poet, the all-too-human recluse, and Wilson’s complicated but always truthful relationship with him.
This is the Archie Ammons I knew, someone full of bottomless curiousity, boundless creativity, great
sensitivity, and, at times, uncompromising meanness. It is also the tale of the other Archie Ammons I knew — someone so wonderfully gifted and yet so full of his own terrors, someone who had a rare understanding of what it meant to be disaffiliated and menaced, and someone, just as powerfully, who could write marvelous love letters to his wife, Phyllis, and could befriend someone as sullen as me. Emily Wilson has given us the richest glimpse of what it means to be a major poet and a wonderful presence (warts and all), and in prose that is so generous and revelatory that it returns us to wonder.
I love it. It’s right on, heartbreaking, heartthrobbingly good, real, and openly warm and readable.
Part loving biography, part autobiography, When I Go Back to My Home Country, is a deeply felt narrative of Emily Wilson’s long friendship with the celebrated poet A. R. Ammons. Unsparing in detail about a complex and enduring relationship, this memoir is a compelling account of her admiration and respect for one of our leading literary figures. Emily Wilson is a poet herself, and her story is a vivid and moving tribute, told with both candor and affection.
Read Linda Brinson’s review of When I Go Back to My Home Country, from the December 22, 2019 Winston-Salem Journal‒Linda Brinson
Read Linda Brinson’s article about Emily’s friendship with Archie Ammons, and how she came to write her memoir, as published in the December Wake Forest Magazine.
Like a good poem, this remembrance of the poet Archie Ammons is vivid, distilled, and potent.
Emily Wilson renders a brilliant selection of scenes from their nearly 30-year friendship to
give us a sense of Ammons’s humor, his demons, and the indelible influence of eastern North Carolina on the man and his work. Wilson delivers a deft balance of observation and reflection. No heavy hand here; she knows just what to dramatize and then move the memoir along. The events of this storythus become a fresh lens through which we read both his and her poems, inserted occasionally in the narrative — never a word wasted, but a brimming picture of genius.
As a native North Carolinian and great-granddaughter of a Primitive Baptist preacher/coffin maker and his butter-churning, chicken-plucking, garden-growing wife, I fully understand what author Emily Herring Wilson means when she writes that Archie Ammons ‘didn’t go in for fancy.’ I, too, am the product of plainspoken people who worked hard and never ‘put on airs.’ And thanks to Herring Wilson’s “When I Go Back to my Home Country”: a Remembrance of Archie Ammons, I feel a deep affinity with a poet I might never have otherwise known, save for the repetition of his name around these parts. In her ‘remembrance’ of both the public and private lives of one of our country’s and certainly North Carolina’s most lauded poets, Emily Herring Wilson introduces to her readers, through her memories and those of others who were close to him, as well as examples of his fine work and work of her own that he inspired, this decidedly three-dimensional, all-too-human friend, husband, father, teacher, mentor, and writer. Archie’s wonderful poem ‘Glare’ ends with these lines:
it is a sad song but
it sings and wants to sing on and on and when
it can no more it wants someone else to sing. . .
To her readers’ good fortune, by penning this loving, sometimes painfully honest homage, someone has.
Reading When I Go Back to My Home Country becomes such an intimate experience. I love the way Emily weaves times, events, people, observation and reflection, plus the poems throughout, and beginning and ending at “the end” makes the whole an elegiac journey. Her voice is clear, honest, knowing, humorous, and engagingly conversational. While reading, I felt I was sitting beside her listening to her memories, sharing her insights as well as her wonder. She’s a brilliant guide.Obviously her relationship with the people about whom she writes is unique, privileged in its experiences and its knowledge; that’s a gift to the rest of us. Her attention to and reconstruction of all sorts of detail stuns me. It’s vivid, specific, and complex. I know she has said the writing of this memoir was very difficult, but the flow of the narrative makes that seem hard to believe. The choices she has made in what to include and in the organizing of those memories seem to me perfectly suited to the subject. She has created a living portrait, and that’s a most amazing achievement.
Emily Herring Wilson, a Georgia native, graduated from Woman’s College in Greensboro (present-day UNCG), where she studied writing with Randall Jarrell and published poems in the student literary magazine. Her greatest interest, however, was student government, and she spent much of her four years organizing campus activities, planning celebrations, and loving college. This proved to be the pattern of her life.After graduation, she enrolled in a master’s degree program in English at Wake Forest, and afterwards took a job teaching in the English Department. In 1964 she married the Wake Forest Dean Ed Wilson: they built a casual contemporary house in the faculty residential neighborhood. Their three children–Eddie, Sally, and Julie–brought into the family circle Laurie, Carolyn, John, and a dog, Gertie, and cat, Banana; and four amazing grandchildren–Buddy, Harry, Maria, and Ellie, who delight in books, camping, and travel. The Wilsons like to entertain informally, read aloud to one another, attend concerts, movies, and lectures, and live on a university campus.
Active in campus and community affairs, Emily became a staunch Democrat, a feminist, and a networker for cultural, racial, and literary lives and public programs. She volunteered in the public schools, worked in community colleges as Visiting Artist, wrote for the Winston-Salem Journal, lectured for the North Carolina Humanities Council, and taught at Reynolda House Museum of American Art, Salem College, Wake Forest University, and for a semester at Cornell, at the invitation of her friend, Archie Ammons.
With the help of her W.C. classmate Heather Ross Miller, in the beginning Emily wrote poems, published in small literary magazines and in chapbooks, and gave and sponsored readings. In the late 1970s, her writing interests turned toward nonfiction, and she subsequently published three books and edited two others about strong and independent women of the twentieth century.
Her memoir of her thirty-year friendship with the North Carolina native, Wake Forest alumnus, and friend Archie Ammons is the result of many years of thinking about him and remaining close to the Ammons family.
She says: “The final decision to publish it with Archie’s friend, and mine, Alex Albright at R.A. Fountain, would, I am sure, have pleased Archie immensely.” Both he and his wife, Phyllis, considered The North Carolina Poems their favorites of Archie’s many books.
“I am joined in this undertaking by all the friends who participated in these remembrances, and I’m grateful for our many enduring friendships and how they intersected in so many ways with Archie’s life. My intention here is to broaden the audience for poetry in general and for Archie Ammons in particular to a wider world than his eastern Carolina ‘home country.'”
The five watercolors in Group A are signed by the artist. Unless otherwise noted, they are on 24" x 18" Arches paper.
The three watercolors in Group B are signed by the artist and individually sized.
The ten watercolors in Group C are matted, signed by the artist and dated 1983. Each is painted on the back of a 4 3/4" x 6 1/4" gallery announcement card for a group show that included Ammons watercolors, "Recent Paintings," at the Ridge House Gallery, Lansing, New York, September 18-30, 1983.
The nine watercolors in Group D are signed by the artist and dated 1977. Unless otherwise noted, they are painted on watercolor paper and are 12 1/4" x 9."
The two double-sided watercolors in Group E are from 1977, each on 12 1/4" x 9" watercolor paper. The reverse sides are not signed.
The eleven watercolors in Group F are signed by the artist and dated 1977. They are on 10 1/4" by 7" watercolor paper.
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