Charles Olson to Robin Blaser




28 Fort Square


May 13, 1958

My dear Robin:

Very struck of course by yr saying who's the image boy around hyar?! And very damned interested to continue to try to say what we started over the spaghetti.

Much boiling water since. That is, redid re/view for Chic/ago Re/View at their request just where--one para--I was on same subject: had this difficult sentence (as of all this pother about allegory and symbol in Classic American literary men (these academics), "After all allegory symbol anywhere any time any literature only one side and a poor side of that side of image on the other side from its plasticity, that is, its analogical power" or something equally as speculative and stumbling. But you will see it now!

It is, what the dream told me

(you will remember): of rhythm is image

of image is knowing

of knowing there is

a construct

This turned (turns) out to be more basic than I had guessed. All can be poised between these four points:

rhythm image

knowing construct

That is, that's true on the axis of function--or genetical: bringing the thing into being: how one does know how one is writing the given po-em

But here's the bug-

ger: at some point midway it flips and suddenly you are bringing the form of the poem into being, and you are on the structure or morphological tack

(Does this language seem Choctaw? It isn't. But I'm not aware there is much comprehension yet of the import of these ordinate-abscissa matters which I have previously and sundry and several called:

The Double AXe/The Double Axis

(or now, Chi Rev, "Complementarity"

that is, that the same thing is at once wave and corpuscle, etc

(to which add fr Whitehead, Primordial/Consequent Absolute/Relative etc etc--at any point as of any analysis/ or creation (action person object event)

I am persuaded, for example, that our inherited notions of "mask" "Persona" (Personae!) etc--twofaced frontward (all that) is only a glance at the truth. At the moment, I'd put that flipping (above)(in midstream) as literally JANUS--experience (behind Roman Janus I suspect more interesting figure)

The eye (for which read face) looks two ways--there are two faces to one head only one in front and the other is backward (etc etc--apocatastasis on another plane--history on another (light speed making future as well as past equally available, and present only the center of a sphere from which or inside which, is actual time-experience etc

But our present subject is IMAGE--which is what I am throwing dimensions around, so we can talk of it. (Suddenly I get this double:

optical & (i)magical (imagic)

as of the eyes

For example, that Satyr poem you refer to. I can't get over the experience SF last year when I dragged it out and read it in the midst of my "lectures(!)" there (Dunk's) not at all to show off, or in terms of image at all, but quite the opposite--as an example of a different dimensional base of poem anyhow

That is, I had started by reading Whorf on Hopi syntax (no verbs, isn't it?) And Satyrs was an ex. of writing to or from a base of assumptions of the universe as topos of-a like Hopi different feeling (?

Anyhow: to get back to what I sd that night in yr living room--if you go apart from the specific object or person/ or the image floats free from such literalness of source, one is losing the DOUBLE (TWOFACED (fact in the universe?) which gives image its effect

(but see over on stance)

(We need not talk of the other difficulty, at the moment, of the loss if the image stays too far in the incident event person etc--but then there are other means or problems here by which that difficulty, particularism, is dealt with

(Note: at the present time, when we have only so recently reinherited discourse after a bad 2400 years (exactly) of discrete or "universe of" discourse (Socrates removing narrative and substituting logic 45OBC-1950AD thus losing for us the two forces of the plastic and the analogical (or, to speak more biologically and accurately, the anological and the homological

 ana-logy is ratio &

 doesn't have to do with

 logic, I find

     we can afford to err perhaps towards the particular than to trust the general yet again)

Image is as controlled fr base (you, me) as from use (in poem as both object and image)      /  congruence  \

    That is, the decision, point by point, of how to get it to come from the literal and be able to carry a general force depends also upon where one is humanly poised (you know, one days or moment one feels less human even if brightly shining?

One can't afford to speak except from a firm double sun (never the moon as a base, which is reflected light, beautiful but dumb! even if 0 Goddess, Ben Jonson cried, Excellently Bright!

The Double Sun is Janus too

(By Double Sun I am not being cute or poetic. I am talking literally of another twofaced fact:

my retina is sensitive to light, the optician tells me. Wow. He don't know. My other retina (or the same retina from the other side) is so thin I am ready to weep / right now!

I put it there (the Chi Rev):

"the complementarity of each of two pairs

--image & object, and subject & action"

Exactly why I insist on the 2nd pair as connected so strongly has, I suspect, to do with this stance question:

where are you "present", in the Gem-Cutter?

as at once--simultaneously--two-faced!-

subject and action?????

somehow you have to be "present"

(not at all autobiographically, but

surely we can't be so sure the biographical

isn't a wave or corpuscle of source as

mysterious and necessary as anything else(?)

(Note: who am I,

in the Satyr poem?

I mean literally.

For it is a very personal


In other words, going back to my "test": image is only second, and only as "succeeding" not at all hierarchically, to rhythm

And surely we are used to giving rhythm what Novalis gave it: he who controls it controls the Universe, he sd!

And surely knowing is as crucial as Socrates, the old fart, made it (but sticking it out there, like the felt on the cue, he changed the game--to billiards

And "construct" (God, does that send me, as a word for what one does: poem, or otherwise

(you will know whitehead's lovely biz, that "extensive quantity is a construct": and "the systematic construct" of the external continuum etc etc)

What a damned clean and unsubjective way to refer (a dry way) to what the experience is. Afflatus allright but nobody's pinning any medals. Or Noble prizes. It's--eh--a--work! (Like the Man sd, christ, the earth turns all about once every 24 hrs. Wot the hell have you done, he sez to me!)

Ok. Will sign off. Didn't mean to splash around, but sd subject is wider (or la-bas?) than the little weenie word image does sound like (isn't it the loveliest light word in all the BIG FOUR (or--to go all the way back to the beginning--the more immediately structural (as against lst functional) getting off the starting block:


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