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Posted: Tuesday March 23, 2010
Charles Olson

Charles Olson (1910–1970) was a giant of a man in physical stature, critical and intellectual range, and imaginative power. His masterwork, The Maximus Poems, stands beside Ezra Pound’s The Cantos as one of the two great American long poems of the twentieth century – indeed, it can be seen as a democratic and relativist response to Pound’s absolutist manifesto. Olson’s boundless energy, penetrating curiosity, and limitless dedication to his craft made him and his work the syncretic centre of the evolving discourse of mid-twentieth century poetics in English.

Olson’s first two books, Call Me Ishmael (1947), a study of Melville’s Moby-Dick, and The Mayan Letters (1953), written to poet Robert Creeley from Mexico, cover a range of subjects – mythology, anthropology, language, and cultural history – and use the fervent informal style that were to distinguish all his discursive prose. Olson’s manifesto, Projective Verse, published in 1950, was quoted extensively in William Carlos Williams’s Autobiography (1951). Olson was a visiting lecturer and then rector at Black Mountain College in its last years, 1951–1956, and taught at the State University of New York, Buffalo, 1963–1965. Settling in Gloucester, Massachusetts, he devoted most of his time and energy until his death in 1970 to The Maximus Poems (1953–1975).

LATEST Charles Olson NEWS

June 2016 : A new home for Ralph Maud’s Charles Olson library

December 2014 : RALPH MAUD 1928 – 2014

May 2014 : After Completion Has Arrived!

April 2014 : Coming in May! After Completion: The Later Letters of Charles Olson and Frances Boldereff


After Completion

“Lovers to the end, Olson and Boldereff remained faithfully bonded by the central role that imagination and art played in each of their lives. Their mutual admiration for each other’s intellect was left untarnished by any personal failure. In this volume of letters, it is Boldereff who appears the stronger of the two on all accounts. She never wavers in her interest in Olson as both a man and an artist. … If there’s any benefit to come from having this correspondence made available, it should surely bring about greater attention to the sharp interrelating of Joyce and Blake accomplished by Boldereff in her books. Her work receives too little the acknowledgement it richly deserves.”

“Boldereff, while appearing to serve her pantheon of ‘great men,’ puts them into her service. This book is not the fiery Olson workshop of the previous volume. Boldereff here enters the period of her own working, beginning with her manifesto Credo in Unam … it is a call for a new woman, a woman who is strong, independent, sexually liberated, and within whose ambit man can find his own maturity, as they enter the new age together … Boldereff’s books are strange but not delirious. Her work on Joyce is substantial … ”
The Capilano Review

“What is stunning about this collection is the density of intellectual and cultural observations by both participants in this dialogue – and the ways in which Boldereff and Olson’s mythopoetic shoptalk quickly shifted in and out of the amorous and plainly erotic, which here so often serve as the groundwork of the intellectual and cultural materials.”
— Andrew Mossin



"Maud depicts [Olson] functioning remarkably as a public poet, a poet thinking on his feet, and being absolutely delightful."
Pacific Rim Review of Books

"This new edition of Muthologos reiterates the intensity of attention that Olson brought to his final six years in the public performance of his immense poetic archaeology. These talks and interviews document the processual nature and intellectual hunger that situate his poetic imagination not only in the poem but in the range of perception that can be talked about "with some life." When I heard him talk about his poem "Place; & Names" at UBC in 1963, the poem as discourse for place and history provided a crucial tap for my own sense of poetry’s possibility. His Beloit lectures on "The Dogmatic Nature of Experience" in 1968 coalesce and amplify his most singular pedagogy, "Projective Verse," as the cultural shape shifter it has been. By re-inserting, and supplementing, the tape-recorded era of Olson’s poetic life, Ralph Maud continues to sustain this material as consequential and amazing."
— Fred Wah

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