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Born in 1910, Charles Olson’s first two books, Call Me Ishmael (1947), a study of Melville’s Moby Dick, and The Mayan Letters (1953), written to 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 generously in William Carlos Williams’ Autobiography (1951). Olson was rector of Black Mountain College, North Carolina, 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, his most substantial work.
QUOTES OF NOTEMuthologos
"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
We gratefully acknowledge the financial support of the Canada Council for the Arts; the Government of Canada through the Book Publishing Industry Development Program; and the Province of British Columbia through the British Columbia Arts Council for our publishing activities.