|Before he settled into a career as a professional poet and teacher, A. R. Ammons tried a little of everything else. He served in the Navy in World War II, when he began writing poems seriously for the first time. Then he went to Wake Forest University, near his North Carolina hometown of Whiteville, where he studied the sciences, preparing him for a later 12-year stint as a glass factory executive in New Jersey. He also did graduate work in English at the University of California, headed up an elementary school on North Carolina's remote Cape Hatteras, and sold real estate. His entry into the poetry world was tentative: his first book, OMMATEUM, was self-published, and it was nine more years before he published his second book and took up teaching English at Cornell University. He would remain at Cornell for the rest of his career, publishing frequently and helping to run the university's prestigious program in poetry writing. His poems, which he types--often on adding tape--are typically short-lined and informal. Though they often exhibit a light touch, they take up strenuous philosophical problems, often embedding them in a seemingly banal image, such as the garbage dump that inspired his National Book Award-winning long poem GARBAGE. Though he has remained somewhat retiring, eschewing the lifestyle of many poets who spend weeks on the road giving readings and lectures, he has garnered an enormous and dedicated critical and popular following, and he has won most of the awards that poets can win: two National Book Awards, the Frost Medal, a MacArthur "genius" Fellowship, the $100,000 Tanning Prize, and the National Book Critics Circle Award, among many others.