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Charles Olson

(1910—1970)


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(1910–70),

born in Massachusetts, educated at Harvard, first became known for Call Me Ishmael (1947), a rhapsodic study of Melville, including Shakespeare's influence on him, but subsequently became distinguished for his poetry and poetic theory. His ideas, set forth as instructor and Rector of Black Mountain College, greatly influenced Creeley, Duncan, and Levertov, among other students there. His Projective Verse conceived of the poem as an “open field” through which energy moves from its source to the reader, the measure being based on the breath of the speaker-poet. Olson's shorter poems printed in In Cold Hell, in Thicket (1953) and The Distances (1960) are collected in The Archaeologist of Morning (1971). The Maximus Poems (1–10, 1953; 11–23, 1956; combined, 1960). Maximus IV, V, VI (1968), and The Maximus Poem (1975) form a long, organic work in which the persona of Maximus concentrates on the past and present of Olson's hometown, Gloucester. Other works include The Mayan Letters (1953), written to Creeley from Mexico about anthropology and views of language; A Bibliography on America for Ed Dorn (1964), succinct commentary on the U.S.; Human Universe (1965), essays; Letters for Origin (1969), written to Cid Corman about poetry and its publication; Causal Mythology (1969), on myth; Poetry and Truth (1971), lectures delivered at Beloit; and The Fiery Hunt (1978), verse plays. Creeley edited Selected Writings (1966).

Subjects: Literature.


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