Filming in Gloucester

[Part 3]


VOICE: What about this map of Gloucester? Over there.

OLSON: Which one? That one?

VOICE: Yes, on the wall.

OLSON: That’s a — that’s a topographical creation. There she is in her — I mean, she really still look like a French chick, no?

CROSS: Oh, yes.

OLSON: “Isn’t-that-the-girl” look in the eyes! You know, this is my bedroom wall, baby; [Laughs] you’re talking about! What do you want me to do? I don’t know, this is my Saint Sophia. You see my — I even enclosing. . .

MOORE: What is that?

OLSON: Santa Sophia, in the flesh, mind you, not. . . [Coughs]

MOORE: Is that part of a working chart for the new Maximus, or what?

OLSON: No, I don’t believe — I don’t know, I don’t — as a matter of fact, I was thinking of just ringing my daughter, who used to come to Christmas, you know, and spend the holidays with Pa; and you know, I’d be sitting at that goddamn desk working on the bloody damn thing all Christmas and every year for — I wonder how many years it turned out to cook the damned thing?  ‘cause normally you have to go through paper records and . . . You see, this was — like, let me say — I could tell you it’s simple. They come to this country, the peoples, like, the English peoples, at this end of the. . . this entirely; and they did themselves have the available best land. And it’s up on the Annisquam River, and it’s a marsh. And that group were planters, in the real farm sense; while the fishermen who’d been here earlier was down here at the harbor. But, you know, the farming in New England was done by people who proposed to make Society; they weren’t going to take how things were, they proposed Society. And they, therefore, had both a — well, each town in New England was really a church, rather than a town, although the town and church were really the same. And the person who had both the largest property and was considered the person who could lead or produce the future was the minister. And the settlement of Gloucester was up on this creek, this meadow where cows could be fed on this new grass, which — it was discovered that the salt marsh grasses of this country fattened cattle better than any salt grass that they knew in England, so they had, right off the bat they had. . . But, as a matter of fact, fishing — like, the codfish was still the one that was the thing that was going on right here in Harbor Cove, and had been going on previously. Well, these people had a gen — . . . had children, and then, let me see, I’m pretty sure it’s their children that had to expand; and they went right up into — they’d been cutting off this place that became known as Dogtown. And they cleared this piece that’s the direct extension of what is called “The Green”; and it’s the right — and what I was interested in was that that was the fact that it had been an absolute active, fresh third generation occupation by — and, in fact, what happened was that by that point of time the fishing had really replaced the farming and that most of these people that are registered here. . . And the thing starts on the Lower Road at 1713 — mind you, that’s — see; that would be just about the third generation from the settlement — and on the Upper Road just a hair earlier, 17 — no, wait a minute — this is 1713, and the Benjamin Kinnicum will be a hair earlier. But it’s very early, like, at the beginning — and, in fact, as you know, America had two big rises. She had a big rise at the beginning of the seventeenth and an enormously big rise at the beginning of the eighteenth, to speak just before we talk in terms of the big rise that has now swept the world, the rise of total world change. But in this country the two big rises happen to be just after the beginning of the eighteenth and just after — excuse me, the beginning of the a — yeah, the eighteenth — and the beginning of the nineteenth. And this one is the — this is actually an attempt to just really myself find out what the eighteenth century was. We’ve been talking all evening, we’re clear about the seventeenth; and we certainly are stuck with the twentieth, and we’re trying to be clear about that. And the nineteenth is really, is almost well-known to us. And the eighteenth, to my mind, which we assume that American Revolution took care of — I think the American Revolution put an end to something. As a matter of fact, as I’ve published from the great Gino Clays, thank the lord, is the first man, and because of Gino Clays I wrote it to a thing even before Wild Dog in Pocatello there was a thing called A Pamphlet edited by Gino Clays. Gino Clays is a San Francisco poet-man. He’s a poet man. I don’t know too much about his writing except the thing that provoked me to write this thing, in which I suggested, and I still am trying to work that out, that the whole thing that this thing here, I think, gave me much of this, but it was princi — . . . it was also the architecture of harbor, which is the fishing thing that overtook this thing; so that the basic map of this, which gave me the chance to do this at all, is this crazy thing that’s in the Archives of the State of Massachusetts, and is the map of this parish when the harbor people — the fishing had so changed, had overtaken the farming, in a sense the politer thing, that the downtown people wanted to become the First Parish and build a church, and they had — these people who were the First Parish went to the General Court, or the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and fought the harbor people stealing their church and their minister from them. And this map is the — the reason it survives (it’s 1741) is that they fought and lost. The harbor won. Today this parish, which was the original parish of Gloucester, which I think was either the fifteenth or the thirty-first church of the Commonwealth, I don’t remember which (late 1642). . . 1741 this map is they lost on this attempt. But the map is an engineer’s map, locating each of the inhabitants of Dogtown. And it was Dogtown: that’s not a cute name. They themselves called this place Dogtown, which I don’t know who knows why, but — I mean, I’d love to know ‘cause with the weight I’ve put on it, like, dig? I mean, the poetry I’ve written in this new Maximus is all, all in a sense, all really essentially Dogtown. If the first town was the downtown, the fish town, the second town, the second volume, is Dogtown, and the third is what I’m now working on. . .

. . . Well, each one of them is the extent of the property of each of the houses that I was able to start with, the exact location in rods and poles of this marvelous fellow named Batchelder, who did this with chains — they called them chains, it’s the measurement. They do it still, yeah. And poles for rods, right? A pole is a rod, I think. And the chain-bearers carry the lengths, and that — so that you could be, I just found that I could be extremely precise about something, by the way, that’s become a piece of absolute — I mean, the thing like we spoke of earlier: covered wagons that’s covered America, I mean that cuteness which has ruined all literal real real realty, real realty [Laughs] and pers — personality too [Laughs]. That’s what I’m talking, that’s what this thing is is an attempt to just introduce some accuracy into shit, cute shit, cute nominative crap. [Laughs] And it’s a very, I don’t know — I guess still it digs me, it still excites me that you can just put a lot of gunky pieces of paper together and it means something.

MOORE: You fished out of Gloucester.

OLSON: Oh, a little bit. Nothing, I mean, I obviously wasn’t made for the trade. It takes a different thing, and I’m not that thing.

VOICE: You showed Mike and I the pier you fished that you were raised on.

OLSON: Yes, I did. But that’s always big stuff, you know, where you first go to sea from. That’s big stuff, to step off the land, right? Go aboard a vessel for the first time, Jesus, that’s a funny — in fact, to come back, if you remember, is where it really counts. You can’t — we used to come in to the Boston Fish Pier and sell on the Boston market. There was a bar at the end of the Fish Pier called “A Bucket of Blood.” And we’d sell, and while the stuff was being sold, you know, while the captain was selling, we’d be up starting to drink, and the moment we finished the sale we’d start out for Gloucester. And we’d drink — no, we wouldn’t drink aboard the vessel, but we’d lick our chops, and the moment we got here we head for Bill Callahan’s, and smack! and that was the end of it, mostly. But that rope, it’s to get your legs, to get your land legs. Gee, after weeks at sea it’s some funny thing to come on to earth again. And I think also the great thing is that funny moment you leave it. But this is the way I might talk; no fisherman would talk like that.

MOORE: What is that newspaper clipping up there?

OLSON: Oh, I guess one of the — this is, as of the people I live with now, the Fort people, because, you know, they almost all come from a very small town, Terrasini, west of Palermo.


OLSON: You’ll lead me, uh?

MOORE: We were talking about continental shifts. Would you. . .?

OLSON: Yes, I would, I’d like very much to. Continental drift, not “shifts.” [Laughs] This in one, one big split. In fact, one of the exciting things that I think really is — has actually occurred is that. . . and it’s funny that it should happen right now, or just — in fact, I tried the other night in that piece for Mr. Sanders’ magazine in New York to state it as the way in which the actual universe as a geography has turned around and is moving towards us at the very moment that the species thinks it’s going out into space. Actually, space is coming home to occupy us, in fact, to re-occupy the earth. Creation is turned the other way; man’s interest and attention and success must be boring Creation. It doesn’t, but if — it knows where it is out there. And, in fact, that marvelous head of the Jodrell Bank — I can’t remember what the hell his name is, it’s like Whipple but it isn’t Whipple — that observes — in fact, it’s the best reporting, still, and the fastest, I think, on the events of the landings on Mars or the fly-bys on Venus at the moment. He wrote a beautiful book just two or three years ago, a lovely little book called The Individual and the Universe, I think, a lecture in which he — and you know that that Jodrell even is another American invention: it’s the radar invention of the Second World War that is the base, and he acknowledges and names the American who first invented that principle of radar as a machine, uh? It’s like here, for example, there is a man that the wharfhouse was we were on last night, that isn’t here any more, Burkey’s we call it, where I took you, by that sail loft — it’s going down, and just the building, which burned because — they didn’t have to remove it — this winter: Burkey’s. In that building was where the fathometer was invented, that thing which maker, it possible to sound the oceans now. I think they used it — the fathometer was the first way to sound depths that — that map’s in my kitchen with the total bottom of the Atlantic almost like a garden that you could walk around. As a matter of fact, I’ll never forget when Ferrini came out to Wyoming at my wife’s death, two, not yet two years, I had that up. I’d just bought it, that thing; it cost me five dollars from some “Geology “ — from the Lamont Geology. And that was — it’s a crazy map, because you feel suddenly, “Oh Jesus, the water isn’t there; I can walk around there too!” There’s Plato Mountain, Atlantis Mountain; there’s a big cleft in the middle; there’s a river running from the Hudson down where today, by the way, is the great — that extension of the Hudson, Hudson’s Canyon, is where Gloucester is deep-fishing lobster. Did you know that that’s what’s going on? They’re deep-fishing lobster in Hudson Canyon outside of New York City today. It takes enormous. . . I think it’s more interesting actually than those “mother ships” of Russia, thousand ships off through just out here on Georges, that all the Gloucestermen in their cranky, dopey present velleity blaming somebody talk about.

Actually, this book which I’ll read from is the second volume of this poem, the Maximus Poems; and since two years ago I’ve been trying to get a cover. The first volume had an actual U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey of harbor, Gloucester; and I want this new cover, if we can make it, to be the Earth as it was when it was one, in Devonian time. Because the poem actually is the Dogtown — the sort of a statistical or metrical base of the poem is the two roads of Dogtown, which I was thinking after we talked last night that it might be that if I said that it was the third generation of people that went up there, used that, the third generation in America, the children of the children who came here first, who were all — their grandparents were English, their parents were Americans, “first Americans,” like in that sense, that dumb sense. . . Indians. That Meeting House Green I spoke of was called the Town; and I wonder if Dogtown, which I’ve found out is a very early eight — late eight — I now even have record of its naming by one of the chief men of Gloucester, Ellery, who was of that generation, B. Ellery, and I’ll read shortly a poem of him, a Muslim poem of him: it’s made up of five words, so it won’t take long. I have, or I know where it is, his record of his shipping business, and he names himself “B. Ellery, Dogtown” at 1772. Now, I assume, therefore, that this name, instead of being cute, or having to do with old ladies or widows of the Revolutionary War, or lost seamen, is actually, it might be a joke: “where the dogs go,” our children, uh? dogges, “Puppy Town” or something. It’s interesting to speculate. For me, of course, it’s the meaning of it is enormously the other way, which I want to come to now.

Which is that I believe that, not only is the universe come in, but when the universe comes in it declares its limit, which is the principle of creation (not the expanse); that it defines space, and also defines time. If I can say, as I have earlier when we were talking: the Devonian is a precise Route 20 limit, for example, of western New York, that one foot across Route 20 you pass out of Devonian time. We all know that there’s two great national roads from the East settling the American West: one’s 40. That runs by the terminal moraine. You can still watch the same drift kame or accumulations right straight across in the Pennsylvania, Ohio, Illinois if you drive 40. On the right-hand side you’re up against a hill; on the left you have flatlands going to the south. And on 20 you pass, not into these, you pass way behind the Wurm interglacial, or whatever that last ice is called. You go back to Devonian. And Mike — one of the — the “Maximus, from Dogtown,” which was written happily, because the poets visited me here, the San Francisco poets, as a matter of fact. I was lucky; I took them to Dogtown, and I got my “Maximus, from Dogtown — I,” which is published by Auerhahn in San Francisco.


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