Ralph Maud (1928-2014)

This site began as a proposal to transpose Ralph Maud's wonderful quirky journal Minutes of the Charles Olson Society into the digital realm. Charles Olson I took to heart in the early 1970s, when in a course with Warren Tallman at the University of British Columbia, I encountered Olson's instruction to Disentangle the nets of being. In 2002 I went to Storrs, Connecticut to survey the Olson papers at the university's Thomas J. Dodd Research Center. The kindly curator of literary collections, Rutherford Witthus, gave me a copy of Minutes No. 23/24, a guide to the center, and I bought a set of George Butterick's journal Olson. Back on the coast, I cold-called Ralph; he invited me over to his home near Arbutus Park; I bought a full set of fifty-something issues of the Minutes; became enthused by its fluency, informality and intellectual rigor; and soon popped back with a proposal to construct an internet anthology. Ralph embraced the idea at once. He let me pick and choose and always accorded me full ownership. And we became friends.

     The only use I ever saw Ralph make of a computer was to watch movies. True, he pursued his vision of reconstructing Olson's library by making heroic use of search engines to locate books held by online booksellers, but he always relied on Tom McGauley and others to work the computers. (That project ended well: the reconstructed library has found a home, appropriately, in Gloucester, Massachusetts.)

     Ralph honored Charles Olson's intellectual path-finding in so many ways. He often surprised me with a new and hitherto unsuspected publication. He seemed to publish a book every year. They always came to me in a thunderclap. He would modestly hand me the just-published Muthologos: Charles Olson: Lectures and Interviews, in Talonbooks' magisterial second edition, having endlessly revised and polished the transcriptions and thoroughly annotated the material, and affixed the perfect cover photo: a beaming Olson — who was an otherwise intractable subject for photography — delivering that notorious inebriated talk at the Berkeley Poetry Conference in 1965. Ralph wrote in another book, Charles Olson at the Harbor, that he derived unalloyed pleasure from reviewing the audio tapes of Olson's performance there. The Roberts, Duncan and Creeley, thought Olson's behavior was scandalous; Ralph knew it to be the higher play of genius.

     Ralph opened doors to conversation and engagement. That he inhabited many other worlds I only sensed, mainly through the people who would phone and drop by his home. Confirmation of his intellectual reach and bite came with the eulogy of his friend and Simon Fraser colleague Joseph Gallagher, reproduced here on another page.

     Ralph died two years ago this month.

     I am keeping this site alive on the off chance folks may stumble upon these pages and find as I did something of value.

Peter Grant

December 14, 2016 


[By e-mail]

From: Grant Keddie, Curator of Archaeology, Royal British Columbia Museum, Victoria

December 2014 

Remembering Ralph Noel Maud

I first encountered Ralph Maud in his early years at Simon Fraser University. I took his undergraduate English course on "The Wilderness". The whole class took a trip on a boat up to the end of Indian Arm to experience "Wilderness". At least some of us realized that what Ralph had in mind was something much more deeply experiential that observing trees and birds. I spent much of my school years looking out the window. Ralph took us outside and inside at the same time.

When Ralph was writing various books, he visited me on several occasions when I became a curator of Archaeology at the Royal B.C. Museum. Over my 42 years here I have had the opportunity to have discussions with many "famous" people, but if you ask me who I enjoyed talking with most — it was Ralph Maud. Ralph was truly a unique individual with thought provoking views.

Next time I pull one of his books off my shelf, I will feel a bit of the current that goes through those high voltage wires crossing the back of Indian Arm.