A photo of "the man who made me a poet"

Published in Minutes of the Charles Olson Society #42 (September 2001).

Louis Douglas, L, and Charles Olson in Douglass kitchen, Gloucester. Photograph by Harvey Brown, date unknown. Text follows.

This photograph came to me with many others from Kate Olson through the good offices of Ken Stuart, to whom many thanks for enabling us to actually see what Olson is talking so movingly about in the passage below, from the 1969 interview with local journalist Herbert Kenny, I know men for whom everything matters, in Muthologos II, pp. 165-66.

— Ralph Maud


Charles Olson: . . . I can tell you just as many stories of great men who came in from sea and raised families and even to this day are men of such dignity and shape that I dont know their equal in other forms of life or business or profession in the rest of the world. I can take you, introduce you to them on the streets of Gloucester right now. In fact theres one man I see taking a bus back over the Cut that I consider the man who made me a poet simply because of the nature of his language when I listened behind a stone wall to him and his brother from Newfoundland talk when I was four years old.

Herbert Kenny: Who was that?

Olson: Louis Douglas. And hes eighty-five years old.

Kenny: A captain?

Olson: Nope, never was! And he even — and when Ethel sent him — The only present, the only thing I ever did to admit my, acknowledge my debt to him was to — a few years back, a fellow did a book on Newfoundland and the Norse, and I sent it over from Browns. And being the kind of people they are — his wife is the daughter of a Swedish captain — Ethel made me a cake, and Lou came to the Fort to bring it to me. And he had been on the Fort once in his life — the day he came to Gloucester in a bar which was owned by your wifes grandfather, and was asked the day he got here to take a sight aboard a vessel, and had never been on the Fort again, until the day he brought me the cake, which is fifty-five or -seven years later. And he knew every house, every person; he stood and he says, when he walked in, he wasnt going to stop, but then he saw my windows and he said, My Lord, Charlie, you do have, you have some, you have a lot of windows looking out! I says, yes. So I said, come through the house and see it. Sat down and talked for three hours, identified everything that ever was on the Fort! He has that fantastic condition of the human race when everything mattered. Today, nothing does, and thats whats so poor. And I know men for whom everything matters. Still! Who see, feel, and know that everything that they run into does matter. Hah! and then they retain it! And then they have it! And then they have it forever!! And when theyre buried theyre bigger than those people who dont. Even if they look the same and fit the same box.


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