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The Charles Olson Reader

Charles Olson

Edited by Ralph Maud

Cover Picture of The Charles Olson Reader
Imprint: Carcanet Poetry
Publisher: Carcanet Press
Available as:
Paperback (280 pages)
(Pub. Aug 2005)
£14.95 £13.45
Digital access available through Exact Editions
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  • This morning of the small snow
    I count the blessings, the leak in the faucet
    which makes of the sink time, the drop
    of the water on water

        from The Songs of Maximus, 'Song 3'

    Charles Olson (1910-70) believed that poetry exists in an 'open field' through which the poet transmits energy to the receptive reader. Olson's influence on the development of British and American poetry through his writing and teaching is immense. His work encompasses myth, history, scholarship and politics, grand theories and delight in the particular variousness of life, all marked by the curiosity and openness to experience that he asked of his readers. Olson grew up and returned to live in the seafaring town of Gloucester, Massachusetts, and it was from the life and language of its citizens that his poetry drew its strengths.

    The Reader includes extracts from the full range of Olson's poetry and prose, including letters, interviews and the full text of the key essay 'Projective Verse'. Ralph Maud, a colleague of Olson's from 1963-5 and the editor of Olson's letters, has supplied an introduction, supporting illustrations, notes and bibliography to this essential resource.
    Table of Contents


    List of Abbreviations and References

    I Prologue

    La Préface

    The Resistance (for Jean Riboud)

    II Parents

    The Post Office

    As the Dead Prey Upon Us

    III Projective Verse

    The Kingfishers

    Projective Verse

    IV Maximus (1): Polis

    Letter 3

    The Songs of Maximus

    Letter 10

    Capt Christopher Levett (of York)

    Maximus to Gloucester, Letter 27 [withheld]

    V In Thicket

    La Chute

    In Cold Hell, in Thicket

    The Ring of

    VI Outside the Box

    The Gate & the Center

    from Mayan Letters

    To Gerhardt, There, Among Europe's Things... 1

    Human Universe

    Variations Done for Gerald Van De Wiele

    VII Maximus (2): Cosmology

    Letter - 41 [broken off]



    The Poimanderes

    I forced the calm grey waters

    A Maximus Song

    Maximus, at the Harbor

    A Later Note on / Letter - 15

    'View': fr the Orontes / fr where Typhon

    after the storm was over

    3rd letter on Georges, unwritten

    to enter into their bodies

    The Cow of Dogtown

    Gylfaginning VI

    All night long


    VIII Causal Mythology

    from Causal Mythology

    IX Maximus (3): Earthly Paradise

    having descried the nation

    Maximus to himself June 1964

    Cole's Island

    Maximus of Gloucester

    [to get the rituals straight

    Celestial evening, October 1967

    * Added to making a Republic

    I'm going to hate to leave this Earthly Paradise

    The first of morning was always over there

    I live underneath the light of day

    Appendix: 'Maximus, to himself'


    from 'Paris Review Interview'


    Charles Olson
    Charles Olson (1910-1970) is credited with inventing the term 'post-modern'. Father of the Projectivist movement and one of the great teachers of his age, he is also one of its great poets, a writer whose work has had an abiding impact on radical currents of American and British poetry. He owes ... read more
    Ralph Maud
    RALPH MAUD is Emeritus Professor of English and Associate of the Institute for the Humanities at Simon Fraser University, British Columbia. He is a major editor of the work of Dylan Thomas. He is also author of Charles Olson's Reading: A Biography (1995), What Does Not Change: The Significance of Charles ... read more
     'My favourite scholarly book of the effortlessly seduces the reader into a meaningful world of thought and study.'
    Tears in the Fence
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