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January 31

This month’s activities:

      Revived this website with the new handle … noting that the previous address has been appropriated for a weblog with material pirated from this site.

      Added this section as a kind of weblog to channel current information about Olson.

      Modified the Contents page.

      Made numerous additions and corrections to the Chronology.

      Added Tom McGauley’s amusing account of his tussle over the validity of his transcription of Prynne’s Simon Fraser lecture.

      Added my review of Charles Olson at the Harbor.

      Added a notice about the 2010 publication of the 2nd edition of Muthologos: Charles Olson Lectures and Interviews, edited by Ralph Maud — a significant event in Olson scholarship.

      Updated The Ralph Maud Collection of Charles Olson’s Books to reflect the momentous news that Ralph donated his completed collection, the work of decades, to Simon Fraser University (where, at this juncture, it has not yet found lodging).

      Updated the Bibliography section

      Overhauled and updated the Links section.

      Amended the section about the Charles Olson Society to reflect Ralph’s completion of the journal project with Issue #67 (whose 62 pages and inserted The Horn of Ulf pamphlet reproduce his collected correspondence with Olson) … barring, he says, the receipt of further publishable manuscripts, and excepting the as yet undelivered guest-edited Issue #53, featuring Olson’s wartime involvement with the artist Ben Shahn.

All for now,

Peter Grant

January 2013

Web-surfing for vital signs of “Olson now” yields a gem — Kenneth Warren’s collection of literary essays Captain Poetry’s Sucker Punch: A Guide to the Homeric Punkhole, 1980-2012 (Buffalo, NY: BlazeVOX, 2012) for sale on Amazon as a Kindle edition for $5.

I encountered Warren’s richly allusive work on Charles Olson via the literary journal House Organ, copies of which Ralph Maud has passed on from time to time. Here they are presented in readable type — no magnifying glass needed, thanks be — along with presentations, papers and provocations of a little-practiced form Warren’s introducer calls the “poetico-critical essay,” highly readable, advancing the cutting-edge ideas of many contemporary American writers. Olson is by no means ubiquitous but still is there in the beginning and at the end of its 470 pages, and he is central — witness:

“The Blood of the Muse” (House Organ 2000), a meditation on the nature of Olson’s relationship with Frances Boldereff as revealed in Charles Olson & Francis Boldereff: A Modern Correspondence (Maud and Sharon Thesen, editors; Wesleyan, 1999) and guided by Tom Clark’s interpretation that “Boldereff is Olson’s muse.”

“… a revelation of Hermetic inspiration passing between two great intellects in mid-life crisis to take up residence in the poem.

“When he discovers that the feminine image of himself is accessible through Boldereff’s letters, he becomes a glutton for her words. The archaic karma of the flesh following the cannibalism of Call Me Ishmael is now at hand. In the end his own anima, not Boldereff, devours him.”

“Charles Olson’s Breath of Conspiracy” (HO 2001), a 50-page essay that uses Charles Olson Selected Letters (edited Maud, UC, 2000) to trace the evolving nexus of poetics and politics in Olson’s thought.

“Spanning from 1931 to 1969, Selected Letters invites the reader to dig more deeply into the old history that comes before Olson’s conversion to postmodern poetry.

“… shows that the political and social pressures within the first half of Olson’s life, particularly with regard to career, ideology and role identifications, can be more precisely related to the oppositional goal of his poetics than is typically represented.

“… a corrective to postmodern complacency in Olson scholarship.”

“The Essence of Spider Man” (HO 2003), a review of Clayton Eshleman’s Companion Spider (2001), “the most challenging book on mythopoetics published since John Clarke’s From Feathers to Iron in 1987.”

“Just as Clarke is Olson’s true successor in the upward thrust of imagination into the celestial realm of Sirius, Eshleman is his true successor in the downward thrust of imagination into the archaic realm of blood, cannibalism, monsters, and rock…

“Like Olson, Eshleman is up against destiny. He still tastes ‘The Resistance,’ feeling the effects of Olson’s ‘fore-shortened span’.”

“Cro-Magnon Cognition” (HO 2004), a review of Eshleman’s Juniper Fuse: Upper Paleolithic Imagination and the Construction of the Underworld (2003).

“Beautifully produced Juniper Fuse is nothing less than a new found myth most profoundly in touch with Cro-Magnon cave art, primal gnosis, and the descending imago of Charles Olson. Like Olson, Eshleman is a poet of interdisciplinary mind …

“The second significant force in Eshleman’s matrix of initiation into chthonic mystery is Olson, whose knowledge path of ‘one saturation job’ in ‘PRIMARY DOCUMENTS’ is explained in ‘A Bibliography on America for Ed Dorn.’ Although no longer a novice, Eshleman concedes that Olson’s ‘admonition’ to Dorn ‘planted a seed in me for the writing of this book’.”

“North to Charles Olson’s Polar Priesthood” (presented at the Black Mountain North Symposium, Rochester NY, 2009), another psychologized reading of the Olson-Boldereff relationship, where

“As the projective mechanism supercharges Olson’s unconscious for engagement with ‘The She-Bear,’ he offers Boldereff his North Pole, in other words, an ideal point of orientation to erotic spirituality, a polar dynamic shared with Dante’s journey through Inferno, Purgatory, and Paradise …”

(Warren’s provocative thesis is interrupted by page references that seem not anchored to any work.)

“The Tao of ‘Typos;’ Archetypal Dynamics in Reactive Biography” (HO 2009), an interpretation of Ralph Maud’s Charles Olson at the Harbor (2008), employing C. G. Jung’s theory of personality types as elaborated in John Giannini’s 2004 Compass of the Soul: Archetypal Guides to a Fuller Life to analyze Maud’s quarrel with Tom Clark’s biography of Olson.

“Giannini’s book provides a far-reaching guide for discerning the implicit structures of the psyche contained within Olson’s appropriations of Jung’s critical psychology. More crucially, his book makes visible the dialectical oppositions that Olson’s ‘image of man’ summons in the biographies written by Maud and Clark.”

The Deep Pivot of a Curriculum” (presented at the Charles Olson Centenary Conference, Vancouver, 2010), celebrating publication of the complete A Curriculum of the Soul.

“Charles Olson’s death is an occasion for the Institute of Further Studies and its director John Clarke to demonstrate through a group work-out with his departed spirit how right-brain synaptic firing past the semiotic logic suggested by ‘A Plan for a Curriculum of the Soul’ might yield an intuitive unlearning process in projective heavenly ‘know-how.’

“After Olson’s death Clarke wagers with Albert Glover that the Institute of Further Studies can evoke the Homeric Chain through which wise ones join heaven and earth and persist in unbreakable relationship with humans, gods, and nature …

“After Olson’s death ‘the other pole of the world’ [Jung, Memories, Dreams and Reflections] fuels Clarke’s and Glover’s aspirations for a collective alchemical production in the Homeric chain, only to be practiced and realized over the course of an astonishing forty year apprenticeship to the soul. Now, thanks to Glover’s commitment to the visionary imagination, his period of apprenticeship is reaching completion through a book where the names of poets perish from singular isolation in solitary fascicles.”

Between Language and Ta’wil: Robert Creeley, Jack Clarke, and Poetics in Buffalo after Olson” (presented at the Soul in Buffalo Symposium, Buffalo, 2010) examines, brilliantly, the enmities of Projective and L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E camps leading up to Creeley’s refusal to take on the “Mind” fascicle of the Olson-inspired A Curriculum of the Soul.

“… Buffalo is an attractor site for the adversative moieties of a coincidentia oppositorum. I hope to demonstrate that with the Language movement becoming more and more visible during the late Seventies, SUNY Buffalo became a major site for a clash of poetics. … On the one hand, there is the left brain profane separatist particle Language clan of innies. This clan is indisposed toward the transcendental entity of soul. On the other hand, there is the right brain sacred participatory wave Olsonian clan of outies, disposed toward the transcendental entity of soul.

 “Dialectically speaking, the serotonin drenched right brain participant experience of being ‘Under the Mushroom’ in Olson’s projective vatic space had to give rise to the left brain prowess of deconstructive death ray adepts who serve the magical group-fashioning powers of the language-centered community.

“… the action of the Institute of Further Studies is substantially predicated on [Henry] Corbin’s Hermetic notion of ta’wil, which he explains in Avicenna and the Visionary Recital (1960; 1988):

Ta’wil is, etymologically and inversely, to cause to return, to lead back, to restore to one’s origin and to the place where one comes home, consequently to return to the true and original meaning of a text. It is ‘to bring something to its origin. . . .’

“By concentrating on the amplified implications of a detailed reading of Olson’s political and social formation,” Ammiel Alcalay summarizes in the afterword, “Warren provides an almost completely new framework for thinking about Olson’s unique placement as a conduit through which some of the 20th century’s most vexed issues were channeled or found expression.”

A Curriculum of the Soul.

John Clarke and Albert Glover, editors.

Canton, NY: The Institute of Further Studies, 2010.

896 pp.

 “A collaborative text in twenty-eight books derived from ‘A Plan for a Curriculum of the Soul’ by Charles Olson which appeared in The Magazine of Further Studies #5. Publication of A Curriculum began in 1968 with Charles Olson’s ‘Pleistocene Man’ (which now serves as an introduction to the completed text) as the first fascicle in an ongoing series that appeared between 1972 and 2002. After John Clarke’s death in 1992, Albert Glover finished the fascicle publications and then edited the entire collection as a single text which appeared in a fine press edition of fifty copies designed by Michael Russem and hand-bound by Sarah Creighton in Japanese silk for the Charles Olson centenary celebrations. Seven of ten copies remain for sale at $3,000 each to cover the costs of production.”

(One copy listed at $3,000 on


By Joanne Kyger

[Author of Fascicle #24, “Phenomenology.”]

In Harriet, The Poetry Foundation's blog for poetry and related news.


After Completion: The Later Letters of Charles Olson and Frances Boldereff

Edited by Sharon Thesen and Ralph Maud.

Talonbooks, 2013.

Proceedings of the 2010 Centenary Conference at Canterbury, Kent.

Manchester University Press.

All for now,

Peter Grant