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Educated at the University of Michigan, Frances Boldereff (1905–2003) was a James Joyce scholar, typographer and book designer, and single mother who raised her daughter in Brooklyn, New York, while working in the male-dominated publishing industry of the 1940s and 1950s. As a production manager, designer, and marketing administrator, Boldereff worked at The New Yorker, American Weekly, D. Van Nostrand Company, and Doubleday. In 1947, Boldereff introduced herself to modern American poet Charles Olson when she wrote to him in praise of Call Me Ishmael, his study of Moby-Dick. Thus began a passionate romantic and intellectual relationship that spanned more than twenty years and which played out in extensive correspondence comprising hundreds of letters (now archived at the University of Connecticut). As a scholar and exegete outside of the academy, Boldereff wrote about sources in James Joyce and published, under her own privately funded imprint, books such as Reading Finnegans Wake (1959), A Blakean Translation of Joyce’s Circe (1965), and Hermes to His Son Thoth (1968). Her research also focused on Arthur Rimbaud, whose work she not only studied but also translated – most notably his poem “Credo in Unam” (later titled “Sun and Flesh”).
QUOTES OF NOTEAfter 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
We gratefully acknowledge the financial support of the Canada Council for the Arts; the Government of Canada through the Canada Book Fund (CBF); and the Province of British Columbia through the British Columbia Arts Council for our publishing activities.